WARATAHS 21 REDS 25
Streaking away ... Dom Shipperley of the Reds breaks away for the winning try. Photo: Getty Images
SLOPPY passing and a poor judgment call in the dying moments of the Super Rugby opener cost the Waratahs first blood against arch rivals the Reds in a thrilling and at times brutal encounter at ANZ Stadium last night.
A last-gasp try to winger Dom Shipperley broke 32,000 hearts at Homebush, securing a four-point win for the visitors.
Inspector Gadget ... Sarel Pretorius stretches out to score. Photo: Anthony Johnson
The Waratahs looked to have the match in the bag with just a few minutes to go thanks to tries from No.8 Wycliff Palu and man of the match Sarel Pretorius. But they were not far enough in front on the board to survive Shipperley's miracle run down the right wing.
It was the only Reds try - their early points coming from replacement five-eighth Mike Harris's superboot from penalties.
''That last minute cost us. I saw our right winger see space down the right side of the field and he made an aggressive call, he saw the space open and he called to [Brendan McKibbin] to kick the ball there to chase it and try to score a try,'' Waratahs coach Michael Foley said. ''The benefit of hindsight is a great thing but if we all had our time again we'd probably do something different. But I certainly understood what he was trying to do.''
Wycliff Palu crashes over for the first try for the Waratahs. Photo: Getty Images
The Waratahs scored the only try of the first half but conceded six penalties in the same period.
Harris, who kicked six from six penalties and converted Shipperley's try, was outstanding in the playmaking role.
First-time captain Daniel Halangahu failed to convert Palu's first-half try and later missed one penalty kick.
Reds steal victory at the death
Reds score a runaway try after the 80th minute to steal victory over the Waratahs. Photo: Getty Images
The missed points, plus McKibbin's kick downfield that was quickly regathered by the Reds and passed to Shipperley, ultimately cost them victory.
McKibbin, who replaced Pretorius straight after the former Cheetah's try, had kicked the ball into the Reds' right corner, but the Queenslanders turned it around and took it into a ruck. That was the end. The Reds spread it out wide and it was delivered into the hands of Shipperley, who made a 65-metre dash to snatch back victory - and early season momentum.
''I think they'd feel pretty lucky right now,'' Foley said.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said a win was a win. ''That's the way the game works, no different to the Waratahs two years ago, [they were] lucky too you know, that's the way it is,'' he said. ''You've just got to find a way, what we've got to work with at the end is the scoreboard … we know we got out of jail but you can only work with scoreboard.''
It was the first time since 2003 the Reds had beaten the Waratahs at home, McKenzie said.
''We've got plenty to work on but we're very happy with that win,'' Reds captain James Horwill said.
Breakaway Chris Alcock and Pretorius were tenacious at the breakdown, the South African delivering the Waratahs's second try with 13 minutes to go. After a disciplined first half from the Reds the home side returned to the field with renewed energy and looked to have the upper hand.
Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau appeared to have scored a sensational second-half try off a dropped bomb. Polota-Nau trundled down the right wing with halfback Will Genia and fullback Luke Morahan in pursuit, reaching backwards over his own right shoulder to plant a try after being tackled on the line. But it was called back as a knock on, to fierce booing from the crowd.
QUEENSLAND REDS 25 (Dom Shipperley try Michael Harris con 6 pens) bt NSW WARATAHS 21 (Wycliff Palu, Sarel Pretorius tries Daniel Halangahu con 3 pens) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Jaco Peyper. Crowd: 32,071.