Ugly Waratahs score perfect 10 in derby
SCG officials will be scrambling to fix the crumbling surface on the ground after it was churned up during the Waratahs' win over Queensland on Saturday night, with NSW to return in two weeks to face defending champions the Crusaders at the venue.
Reds coach Brad Thorn, whose side is renowned for their scrum, described the playing conditions as "disappointing" after scrums brought up huge divots in the ground.
"It just shut [our scrums] down didn't it, it's a professional sport," Thorn said.
"All the stuff around being in space where you can play the game with mauling and scrummaging, the ground is pretty important. That was disappointing."
Reds captain Samu Kerevi said while the playing surface hurt his team's chances to dominate scrums, it was no excuse for Queensland's spluttering performance having held the vast bulk of possession.
The Tahs have scheduled some home games at the SCG this season due to the rebuilding of Allianz Stadium, but NSW coach Daryl Gibson does not believe future games will have to be moved due to the surface.
"It's certainly something I'm sure the powers that be will look at, and how it's rectified for the next game,' Gibson said.
"It's such an iconic ground that it's a real thrill to play here."
All the talk was about NSW's flashy backline stars, but the Waratahs made it 10 straight wins against Queensland with ugly, determined defensive grit.
NSW won the round four Super Rugby derby match 28-17 with just 32 per cent of possession, making 155 tackles to Queensland's 49.
It finished three tries apiece, with Bernard Foley's accurate kicking (five from six) proving the difference on a crumbly SCG surface that was turned into a sandpit by scrums in front of 15,681 fans.
While there were moments of attacking brilliance from NSW's all-Wallaby backline, tough tackling was the order of the day as Queensland hit them with phase after phase of attack.
It wasn't a pretty affair, but the win was crucial for NSW to maintain pace with the undefeated Melbourne Rebels in the battle for the Australian conference.
"I'm particularly proud of how we ground out that game, we showed some real character there, withstood some real pressure," Gibson said.
"While we want to see the ball fly from side to side, sometimes it's good to win like that."
The Tahs led 16-12 at the break, but had extended their lead less than one minute into the second half after Curtis Rona raced over for a try.
A Reds clearing kick was taken by fullback Kurtley Beale, who goose-stepped and passed to Rona.
The winger outpaced Moses Sorovi and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto down the touchline before managing to ground the ball after being tackled by rival winger Chris Feauai-Sautia in the corner.
At 21-12 ahead, NSW should have been able to squeeze the life out of their opponents.
But Queensland kept surging forward, and suddenly cut the difference to four points when winger Sefanaia Naivalu raced onto a grubber from five-eighth and former Tah Bryce Hegarty, crossing for a try in the 66th minute to make it 21-17.
The danger of a Reds comeback was snuffed out in the 70th minute, however, when replacement winger Alex Newsome jetted onto a smart short ball from halfback Jake Gordon off the base of a ruck and sprinted 25 metres to score under the posts.
Queensland, carried single-handedly by Kerevi, remain the only winless team in the Australian conference.
Karmichael Hunt, unwanted by Reds coach Brad Thorn, was particularly energetic in the midfield defence and laughs last after this battle.
NSW backrower Ned Hanigan barged his way over the line in the 21st minute, running over Duncan Paia'aua and through Samu Kerevi and Brandon Paenga-Amosa for a powerhouse try that put NSW 13-0 up, after Foley had kicked two early penalties.
Kerevi had revenge six minutes later when he raced to a ruck from an Izack Rodda hit-up, scooped up the loose ball on the ground and beat the flat-footed tackle of Hanigan to score Queensland's first points.
Kerevi then set up his side's second - after Foley had extended NSW's lead to 16-7 with a penalty in the 36th minute - with a brilliant draw and pass two minutes before half-time.
Kerevi's in-and-away on Rona drew in Beale, allowing the Reds centre to unleash Feauai-Sautia down the wing for a runaway try in the corner.
But the spluttering Reds coughed up numerous dropped balls to let the game slip.