Winger Dom Shipperley dashed 80m for a try in the last play of the game to give defending champions the Queensland Reds a stunning 25-21 win over the New South Wales Waratahs in Super 15 rugby yesterday.
Queensland seemed likely to start their first-ever title defense with a loss after former Cheetahs scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius sneaked over their goalline in the 67th minute to lift the Waratahs to a 21-15 lead. New South Wales defended that lead for 13 minutes in a typically fierce contest between interstate rivals before Shipperley snatched the match from them with his try after the final hooter.
Flyhalf Mike Harris converted to finish with seven goals from seven attempts in the match and to extend his record to 15 from 15 in his short Super 15 career.
Shipperley was mobbed by his teammates as he cradled the ball in his arms after his winning try in the 80th minute of yesterday’s match at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The Waratahs had kicked deep to force the Reds back in the last seconds of the match, then rushed up to place Queensland under -pressure inside their own half. The ball was scrambled wide to right winger Shipperley, who, from a standing start, slipped between two New South Wales defenders, broke into the open field and outpaced the last of the cover defense to score.
Harris had kicked six penalties to keep Queensland ahead for much of the match, by 12-8 at halftime and 15-14 before Pretorius grabbed the lead with his 16th Super 15 try and his first since his transfer from the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs.
He cut the lead to 21-18 with his sixth penalty eight minutes before halftime, putting the Reds within reach of the Waratahs and making Shipperley’s try the match winner.
“We’re not embarrassed about winning,” Queensland captain James Horwill said. “We gutsed it out. We didn’t play that well. We created a lot of opportunities early on in the game and blew them because of silly flick passes and poor offloads.”
“The Waratahs put a lot of pressure on us at the breakdown and we were a bit sloppy in contact, but we’re very happy we came out of it and got four points,” Horwill said. “Whether it’s start of the season jitters or whatever it is, we’ll need to be better next week.”
Both teams wasted scoring -opportunities through poor -passing and a lack of ball control. New South Wales came close to scoring on several occasions, notably in the 55th minute when Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau darted over in the right corner, only to be called back for a borderline forward pass.
“Anytime you win against New South Wales is very sweet and the fact that we did it down here in Sydney, where we haven’t done it for a long time, makes it that much sweeter,” Horwill said. “We’re very pleased with the result, but there’s plenty we can work on for next week when we play the Force.”
New South Wales outscored Queensland by two tries to one, with tries to Wallabies backrower Wycliff Palu in the 37th minute and Pretorius in the 67th. Flyhalf and captain Daniel Halangahu had a mixed night with his goalkicking, landing a conversion and three penalties from six attempts.
“We’re extremely disappointed,” Halangahu said. “It shows effort isn’t enough in Super rugby. You need not only an effort, but you have to apply everything you do during the week and we didn’t do that tonight.”