A LAST-GASP try by wing Dom Shipperley has allowed the Reds to squeak home 25-21 over the Waratahs in Sydney tonight.
Speedster Shipperley, who was deputising for the injured Rod Davies, broke through the home side’s defence as the fulltime siren sounded to cruelly deny the Sydneysiders what would have been a deserved victory.
The Waratahs were the better side for much of the contest and will have every right to feel gutted, especially as they had what looked to be a fair try disallowed by the referee in the second half.
The Reds certainly missed the wizardy of the mercurial Quade Cooper on attack as they struggled to build pressure throughout the match. The consistent phase play which was a hallmark of their championship-winning campaign in 2011 was almost non-existent.
That's not to say Cooper's replacement in the No 10 shirt, Mike Harris, did a bad job running the cutter. Far from it. The New Zealand-born pivot kicked seven from seven off the tee and showed he will warrant selection somewhere in the starting XV when Cooper returns from the casualty ward in about two months’ time.
Two thirds of the first half was played in Waratahs territory, but the Reds were unable to mount any serious pressure.
Their only points came via the boot of Harris, who made the ‘Tahs pay for their early ill-discipline by guiding three well-struck penalties between the posts.
Waratahs No 8 Wycliff Palu scored the first try of the match just before halftime when the ball squirted out the side of an attacking scrum five metres out from the tryline.
However, a fourth penalty goal by Harris meant the Reds took a 12-8 lead into the break.
Waratahs pivot Daniel Halangahu reduced the deficit with his second penalty goal shortly after the restart.
The Reds were able to string phases together inside the hosts’22 and Harris kicked another penalty to restore his side’s four-point advantage.
Momentum was with the Waratahs from that point onwards.
Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau appeared to have scored their second try in the 54th minute, but a tap-on from wing Tom Kingston off a well-weighted bomb by fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper was incorrectly ruled by the referee to have gone forward. Replays showed it hadn’t.
However, Halangahu banged over a penalty seven minutes later to make it a one-point game.
The Waratahs then took the lead when halfback Sarel Pretorius snuck over the tryline from close range with 13 minutes left to play.
Harris hit back for the Reds when he goaled his sixth penalty in the 73rd minute, before Shipperley scythed through the defensive line and beat Ashley-Cooper’s covering tackle to score the match-winner with time up on the clock.
Reds 25 (Try: Dom Shipperley; Con: Mike Harris; Pens: Harris (6))
Waratahs 21 (Tries: Wycliff Palu, Sarel Pretorius; Con: Daniel Halangahu; Pens: Halangahu(3))
Halftime: 12-8 Reds
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.