BERRY’S Will Miller and his NSW Waratahs remain top of the Australian conference after triumphing 52-41 against the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium – in a match that produced 15 tries between them and the most points in an Australian Super Rugby derby.
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All bar one of NSW’s tries were scored by the backs, including two to Israel Folau, and a try each to Curtis Rona, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Nick Phipps, replacement halfback Jake Gordon and Cameron Clark. number six Michael Wells represented the forwards in the try-scoring stakes.
Both teams made their intentions clear from the outset, scoring four tries between them in the opening 20 minutes to set the scene for a pulsating evening of running rugby.
The 28-19 halftime lead to the NSW Waratahs was the most points scored in a half between these two sides in the history of the competition.
The home team was first to trouble the scorers with a try to winger Izaia Perese against the run of play in the first minute.
With the NSW Waratahs on the attack inside the Reds half, Scott Higginbotham intercepted a pass between Bernard Foley and Michael Wells, offloaded to Perese who sprinted 65 metres to score.
The conversion by Hamish Stewart gave the Reds an early 7-nil lead.
The NSW Waratahs hit back from the restart, stringing together multiple phases to put Curtis Rona over for the visiting team’s first five-pointer of the night.
Foley kicked the conversion to level the score at 7-all after four minutes.
The Reds didn’t hold back, putting the pressure on the NSW Waratahs, which paid off with a try to Higginbotham to put the home side 12-7 ahead in the 14th minute.
It took a change in tactic at the restart for the NSW Waratahs to level the score.
Folau won the aerial battle from a Foley restart to put the NSW Waratahs on the attack.
From a scrum five metres out, Wells barged over.
Foley’s conversion gave the visitors a 14-12 lead in the 18th.
Five minutes later the NSW Waratahs looked to extend their lead after some brilliant interplay from a line out on the Reds’ 22m line between captain Michael Hooper, hooker Damien Fitzpatrick and winger Clark.
But the nifty inside pass from Fitzpatrick to Clark was ruled forward and the try was disallowed.
However, the NSW Waratahs didn’t have to wait too long to extend their lead when Naiyaravoro was on the receiving end of the perfect pass from Wells on the lefthand touchline.
Foley’s kick was successful and with just under 10 minutes left in the half, the visitors were 21-12 ahead.
A Taniela Tupou try, which was converted by Hamish Stewart, reduced the deficit to 21-19 in the 32nd minute but the NSW Waratahs’ scoring wasn’t over.
With the NSW Waratahs on the attack, Foley and Folau combined again to give the visitors a 26-19 lead at the break.
The NSW Waratahs started the second half the way they finished the first.
After a penalty against the Reds’ Stewart for not rolling away, Foley opted to kick for touch instead of the posts.
The move resulted in a seven-pointer after Nick Phipps exploited the short side to dart over for the fifth try.
Foley converted to put the NSW Waratahs 35-19 ahead in the 43rd minute.
It wasn’t until the 51st minute that the next points were scored thanks to a piece of Folau brilliance, who, against the run of play, collected a chip kick to score in the far corner for a 40-19 scoreline.
The Reds, however, hit back with two tries of their own in quick succession, one to replacement hooker Alex Mafi and the other to Caleb Timu to make it 40-29 after 55 minutes.
The NSW Waratahs were not done, with replacement halfback Gordon and Clark adding their names to the list of try scorers to earn the visitors their third 50-point win of the season.
For the Reds, a Jordan Petaia try with eight minutes remaining, another five-pointer from Sef Fa’agase in the 76th minute, converted by replacement Ben Lucas made the final score 52-41.
The NSW Waratahs’ next match is against the Rebels in Melbourne on June 29.
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