Reds overcome Waratahs to spoil Folau debut
Ben Tapuai scored two tries to help the Queensland Reds to a 25-17 victory over the New South Wales Waratahs and spoil code-hopper Israel Folau's Super Rugby debut at Brisbane's Lang Park on Saturday.
Centre Tapuai scored his first with an interception in a two-try 17-point Queensland blitz in the first 15 minutes that stunned the Waratahs, and his second six minutes from time after a rampaging run from outstanding flanker Eddie Quirk.
The Waratahs had fought back in the second half with tries from former rugby league international and Australian Rules player Folau and Ben Volavola but paid the price for too many handling errors, as they so often did last season.
"We're not quite there yet but we'll take the points today," Tapuai said in a pitchside interview.
"The boys stuck at it well."
The Reds, champions in 2011, had lost their opener to the Brumbies last week but got off to a flying start in front of 35 000 partisan fans when winger Dom Shipperley went over in the corner after just seven minutes.
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Three minutes later and Tapuai was crossing the line after stepping up to claim a pass aimed at Folau and a Mike Harris penalty after 15 minutes gave the home side a 17-3 lead which they held until the break.
Folau, playing at fullback and looking a bit lost at times in his first competitive match in rugby union, struck seven minutes after halftime, though, sliding over the line after gathering a low pass from his flyhalf Bernard Foley.
Some 12 minutes later and the match was all square at 17-17 after the impressive debutant replacement back Volavola burst through a gap in the Reds defence before putting on the burners and racing 40 metres to score.
Harris, though, broke the deadlock 12 minutes later and it only remained for Tapuai to put the gloss on the score with his second try, a reward for backing up Quirk after the blindside had dashed 40 metres.
It was a disappointing start for new Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, who had been brought in to turn around the culture at the Sydney Football Stadium after a Wallabies-packed squad won just four matches last year.
"Too much turnover," said skipper Dave Dennis. "You can't give a team like the Reds that much loose possession, we were chasing our tails from the start."
Reds – Tries: Dom Shipperley, Ben Tapuai (2). Conversions: Mike Harris (2). Penalties: Harris (2).
Waratahs – Tries: Israel Folau, Ben Volavola. Conversions: Brendan Foley (2). Penalty: Brendan McKibbin.