Tapuai double seals the deal
The Reds got back on the winning track with a 25-17 win over interstate arch rivals the Waratahs in their Super Rugby showdown in Brisbane on Saturday.
It was a game of bit-parts - some really good moments and also some dour periods.
In the end two tries by Reds centre Ben Tapuai, the second of which came inside the final 10 minutes, sealed the win for the home team.
For the Reds it was a great result, following their loss to the Brumbies last week.
The match was being played at a frenetic pace in the first quarter, but a host of handling errors - especially by the Waratahs - hampered the flow of what could have been a real spectacle.
The Reds were more effective with the ball in hand, making it over the gainline with more than 80 percent of the ball they had. The Waratahs' percentage of line-breaks barely reached the mid 60s.
As the Reds' runners started to tire and the Tahs shored up their defensive lines - having missed 11 tackles inside the first half-hour - those stats took on a more even look. The one aspect that kept hampering the Waratahs was their ball control - simply too many turnovers in the first half.
It also didn't help that the Waratahs' line-out was shocking by Super Rugby standards.
The Reds had problems of their own - five missed first-half tackles, seven turnovers and an equal number of dysfunctional line-outs.
After the break the Reds' missed tackles and turnover count mounted, although the Waratahs made a good effort to 'stay ahead' in this regard.
In fact the Reds were missing one in five tackle attempts, while the Waratahs were missing one in six attempts.
The early exchanges were dominated by the Waratahs, with Brendan McKibbin opening his account in the fourth minute after a transgression at a tackle by the Reds.
However, the Reds quickly awoke from their early-match slumber - with Dom Shipperley bowling over a defender on his way to the line and dragging a couple over with him.
Ben Tapuai then intercepted deep inside his half and his pace was just too much for the cover. With Mike Harris kicking both conversions, the score had quickly raced out to 14-3 in favour of the home team after just 10 minutes.
The Reds continued to energetically hammer away at the Tahs' defensive line, with the visitors conceding a penalty right in front of their posts in their desperation not to concede a try. Harris made it 17-3 after just 15 minutes.
McKibbin failed to close the gap two minutes later with a penalty from virtually in front, as well as in the 29th minute - butchering two sitters.
The Tahs had more chances and even gave up a shot at goal to set up a line-out, but the Reds held their composure and took that 14-point (17-3) lead into the break.
After the break Harris hit the upright, a kick which would have put the Reds almost out of reach had it gone over.
Instead the Waratahs scored next - Israel Folau collecting a floating pass from Bernard Foley to score his first official Super Rugby try. Foley, who had taken over the goal-kicking, added the extras - 10-17 with just over half-an-hour to go..
Rookie Ben Volavola then scored the try that put the Tahs on level terms. He got on the outside of Mike Harris and ran it into the left hand corner. Foley added the conversion to make it 17-all going into the final quarter.
With 12 minutes left on the clock Harris stepped up with a penalty, from 49 metres out, to put his team back in the lead - 20-17.
And then came the moment of the match - Ben Tapuai scoring, after Ed Quirk went on a 50-metre rampage downfield, shrugging of a number of tackles, before being brought down metres from the line. However, Quirk maintained his composure and popped the ball up for Tapuai to score his second of the match. Harris couldn't add the extras, but at 25-17 with under 10 minutes on the clock the reds were in the pound seats.
Man of the match: The big-name stars - Quade Cooper and Israel Folau - did not live up to the pre-match hype. In fact they were among the worst performers by some distance. Wycliff Palu was crucial to the Waratahs' cause, with his strong carries and big tackles - not to mention the turnovers he affected. Mitchell Chapman made a huge impact after he came off the bench, while rookie Ben Volavola caused plenty of problems for the Reds' defence. Ben Tapuai made plenty of metres for the Reds, Liam Gill worked hard at the breakdown, while captain James Slipper had some strong carries and a couple of vital turnovers. However, our award goes to Reds flank Ed Quirk - who carried strongly, defended bravely and produced the match-winning play with a 50-metre charge downfield to set up Ben Tapuai's try.
For the Reds:
Tries: Shipperley, Tapuai 2
Cons: Harris 2
Pens: Harris 2
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Folau, Volavola
Cons: Foley 2
Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 James Slipper (captain), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Nick Frisby, 21 Jono Lance, 22 Luke Morahan.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Tom Kingston, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Jeremy Tilse.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Ben Volavola.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)