Palu snatches victory from Reds
February 13, 2010
Berrick Barnes gets to grips with former team-mate Rod Davies
© Getty Images
The Waratahs had a last-gasp try from Australia No.8 Wycliff Palu to thank for a hard-fought 30-28 derby victory over the Reds in their Super 14 opener at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
The victors were second best for the duration of the game, but fought back in the dying embers to snatch the points from a vastly improved Reds outfit. Rory Sidey crossed with eight minutes to go to spark the comeback and it fell to Palu to cancel out earlier efforts from the Reds' Daniel Braid and James Horwill and a penalty try.
The latest instalment in their 128 year rivalry was given added spice by the return of Wallabies playmaker Berrick Barnes, who kicked off his Waratahs career against his long-time former club. The fly-half kicked 15 points but was left in the shade by his opposite number, Quade Cooper, who was cleared to play despite a burglary charge hanging over his head.
Barnes made a promising start with a sniping break along the short side, with the Reds swarming around him in defence. The No.10 took on a long-range drop-goal immediately after, but the ball drifted wide as boos erupted from the crowd.
The visitors continued to press as Lachie Turner failed to gather a bobbling ball as he raced towards the try-line but they were thankful for an awkward bounce themselves soon after as Rod Davies charged down Drew Mitchell's clearance, only to see the ball rebound into touch.
The Reds spurned the opportunity to turn territory into points as Cooper's first penalty clipped a post and Ewen McKenzie's side were then thankful for some pedestrian play by the Waratahs as a brilliant burst from Palu was wasted when Benn Robinson knocked forward. Will Genia was forced into a last-ditch intervention as Tatafu Polota-Nau threatened the Reds' line but Barnes made sure that the Waratahs' pressure told with a drop-goal.
Not to be deterred, the Reds hit back immediately. Ioane stretched the blue line with a powerful surge before Cooper cut in behind the ruck and fired a long pass to Braid on the wing, the former All Black ignoring Davies outside him and crashing over the line.
Cooper curled in the conversion but put his side under immense pressure soon after. Mitchell arrowed a kick deep into Reds territory, the home side safely securing lineout ball. Genia cleaned up at the ruck, firing the ball back to Cooper, who knocked on in-goal. The Tahs squeezed a penalty at the ensuing scrum but were shoved off the ball by a rejuvenated Reds pack. They failed to find touch however and were punished by a Barnes penalty, slotted with an accompanying soundtrack of jeers from the crowd, when Peter Hynes failed to release Sosene Anesi in the tackle.
Cooper hit back with his second kick to extend the Reds' lead to four and the difference remained at the break as Barnes failed with a long-range effort.
The Reds gathered the restart and showed their willingness to run the ball as Cooper sent Morgan Turunui scampering along the touchline. The ball was carried over the line by the Waratahs and the hosts set up camp, driving across the line but held up by the scrabbling Tahs defence. There was no such luck on the next phase as Ioane darted and Horwill powered across the whitewash from close range.
Barnes narrowed the gap with his third penalty but Cooper showed great composure to hammer over a kick from just inside his opponents' half. The exchange continued as Barnes hit back, but the Reds continued to do all of the running in possession. Hynes carved a path through the defence to set up yet another attack for the home side, ably supported by Horwill, and Cooper dropped back into the pocket and chipped over a measured drop-goal.
The Reds continued to press but it was Barnes' replacement, Daniel Halangahu, who was next to trouble the scorers with a penalty to close the gap to three points. Genia continued an enterprising shift by capitalising on swift turnover ball from Horwill, chipping ahead and racing Ben Mowen to the line. Mowen grappled with the pacy scrum-half before punching the ball dead, forcing referee Craig Joubert to award a penalty try with consultation from the TMO. Cooper slotted the easiest of conversions for a 10-point lead heading into the final minutes.
The Waratahs poured forward, with Turner forced into touch by three Reds defenders as he closed in on the corner. The men in blue were not to be deterred and after pinching possession the ball was shipped wide to Sidey, who dived in to score. The former Dragons centre did not head for the posts, leaving Halangahu with a difficult conversion, which he missed.
The Tahs lost back-row Dean Mumm to the sin-bin as the Wallaby was pinged for a dangerous clear-out on Reds replacement hooker Saia Faingaa. Nevertheless the 14 men desperately pressed the Reds' line, winning a brace of penalties in the shadow of the posts. Phil Waugh took a quick tap and darted for the line, being stopped just short. Palu collected and launched himself past Cooper to score the vital try, which Halangahu converted for the win and a sickening blow for the Reds.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
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