Nine minutes of brilliance were all the Queensland Reds needed to spark the new-look Super Rugby AU season into life during a crushing 41-7 home win over the NSW Waratahs.
The hosts had scored 24 of their points by the 18th minute but only after the Waratahs had scored first – their only points of the night – in a whirlwind opener that did justice to the rule tweaks made to encourage attacking play.
A red card late in the first half to Izaia Perese and second-half injuries to Jake Gordon and Joey Walton complicated things for the Waratahs but the Reds’ sloppiness meant they were unable to completely put them away until the final 10 minutes.
Halfback Gordon scored inside three minutes of his first game as skipper as the Waratahs threatened a boilover but, led by interim captain James O’Connor, the Reds piled on 41 straight points for their seventh-straight Suncorp Stadium win.
Leading the Reds in place of the injured Liam Wright, O’Connor slotted a penalty to begin proceedings and was then given the benefit of the doubt when his final pass to try-scorer Jock Campbell looked to have floated forward.
Hooker Alex Mafi then hung on to a low pass and twisted over from close range before Filipo Daugunu finished a Hunter Paisami line-break.
Suddenly it was 24-7 with 22 minutes still to play in the half, Angus Scott-Young’s terrific low tackle on the line denying Gordon a second try to maintain their advantage.
The Waratahs’ task was made tougher with the loss of former Queensland Reds and Brisbane Broncos talent Perese in the 36th minute for a dangerous throwing tackle on Paisami.
He was able to be replaced after 20 minutes as part of the tournament’s rule tweaks and the Reds threatened, but were unable to exploit the numerical advantage before that.
Halfback Tate McDermott laid a razor-sharp tackle on drifting Waratahs playmaker Will Harrison to stop a promising raid while second-year lock Seru Uru was a standout in the Reds starting side.
Gordon looked to roll his ankle in a tackle with 15 minutes to play, O’Connor then drilling the game’s first 50-22 kick and Daugunu skipped through the line from a scrum to seal the contest.
Deployed off the Reds bench, Taniela Tupou made a late impact with a huge push to win a Waratahs scrum in front of their own posts, before Ilaisa Droasese scored with his first touch on debut on the stroke of fulltime.