The Queensland juggernaut shows no signs of slowing, the Reds consigning the NSW Waratahs to a fifth consecutive Super Rugby AU loss in a bruising and entertaining affair in Sydney.
The unbeaten Reds regained top spot on the ladder from the Brumbies with a comprehensive 46-14 victory at Stadium Australia on Saturday night.
The Reds were too slick, too strong and too clinical, running in seven tries to one to retain the Bob Templeton Cup with a first win in Sydney in eight years.
“It’s very hard to come down here and win. Our game plan worked tonight,” said Reds captain James O’Connor.
Despite the blowout scoreline, there were finally some signs of life for the winless and greenhorn Waratahs, who clearly benefited from a mid-week visit from Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and other members of the Test set-up.
The Tahs’ intensity was up and they brought added physicality, only to once again come unstuck with fundamental errors.
“We came out of the blocks pretty well and got off to a nice 6-0 lead. A disappointing finish,” said NSW’s injured captain Jake Gordon.
“We find ourselves in good position on the field and compound errors with either a knock on or an offside penalty.
“Obviously our discipline needs to be better. We need to hold the ball to get any result against the Reds.”
Returning from suspension, Izaia Perese provided the NSW midfield with some much-needed punch and his explosive duel with Hunter Paisami would have excited Rennie ahead of his naming on Sunday of a 40-man squad for a mid-season camp next month.
The Waratahs enjoyed all the territory and possession in the opening 10 minutes and quickly found themselves up 6-0 through a pair of penalties from Will Harrison.
The Reds were lucky not to be down to 14 men after prized recruit Suliasi Vunivalu tackled Jack Maddocks in the air.
But Harrison kicked out on the full, then Perese clumsily knocked on in his own quarter to gift Queensland an attacking scrum, and the game turned.
Livewire halfback Tate McDermott did it all himself for the game’s opening try, darting from the scrum base and beating five NSW defenders to score next to the posts.
The Reds’ second try also came from their deadly set piece, with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto burrowing over after a rolling maul from a lineout deep in Tahs territory.
In a coach killer for Rob Penney, Filipo Daugunu strolled over from James O’Connor’s cross-field kick on the stroke of halftime as the Reds seized a 22-9 lead at the break.
NSW were still in it, trailing 27-14, when Will Harris crossed in the 53rd minute but a late hat-trick from the Reds’ replacement front-rower Alex Mafi was an ugly finish for the Waratahs.
“I feel for them,” O’Connor said.
“Credit, they played the full 80 minutes. They’ve had some crucial injuries.
“I think once their big players come back they’re going to be a team to beat because they do move the ball around well and they do what to play, which is exciting.”