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'As far as we're aware, he's an innocent man' - Waratahs react to latest unfolding off-field drama

The NSW Waratahs have defied another off-field scandal to stretch their interstate Super Rugby dominance over the Queensland Reds to 11 matches.

NSW kept their finals hopes alive thanks to the 40-32 win at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, but they’re certain to face additional scrutiny after an incident involving Tolu Latu.

Charged with a drink driving offence on Thursday morning, Latu kept the bad news to himself until the story broke in the media on match day.

By that time, it was too late for Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson to call for a replacement.

“It’s now been kicked upstairs (to Rugby Australia). There’ll be a process and I imagine we’ll follow that closely and he’ll be disciplined,” Gibson said.

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Many of the 12,236 spectators would have been unaware of the unfolding controversy surrounding the Waratahs who selected Latu on the reserves bench despite the hooker being the subject of an investigation from Rugby Australia’s Integrity Unit.

NSW Rugby Union chief executive Andrew Hore was disappointed not to be told about the drama until late in the afternoon on match day.

Under the code’s professional player code of conduct, Rugby Australia have the discretion to stand down a player until the Integrity Unit probe has been completed.

“As far as we’re aware, he’s an innocent man until there’s been a proper, formal investigation,” Hore said.

“You’ve got to be fair. When you find out late in the piece it makes it tough.”

The Latu incident was another heavy blow following the sacking of Wallabies star Israel Folau.

But, with their season on the line, and backing up after a tough South African road trip, the players delivered a stirring performance to deny the Reds.

Cleared to play pending the investigation, Latu was injected late in the second half of an atypically freewheeling interstate battle.

The contest was fiercely contested and with 25 minutes remaining each side scored four tries as the Waratahs held a one-point lead.

Queensland scored six tries to four, and was denied another two by the Television Match Official, with Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley proving the difference with an eight from nine goalkicking performance and try in his 25-point haul.

In contrast, Reds kicker Bryce Hegarty, who usually a sharpshooter, only landed one from six.

Reds debutant Matt McGahan outshone opposite number Kurtley Beale with a confident showcase of skills in the first half.

Almost three years since he left the Blues, Queensland’s new fullback caught a soaring Beale bomb and showed lightning-fast hands to send winger Sefa Naivalu across for a try.

Frustrated Reds coach Brad Thorn said his side wasn’t ready to win such an intense, high-stakes game and was guilty of being “passive” and lacking a “hard edge”.

Still, the game was there to be won when hooker Alex Mafi scored from a pinpoint McGahan cross-field kick to give t he Reds a 32-31 lead with 14 minutes left.

“The game was there for us to take it,” captain Samu Kerevi said.

“There were key moments that we lapsed. We played some awesome footy out there, scored more tries but didn’t finish.”

AAP

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'As far as we're aware, he's an innocent man' - Waratahs react to latest unfolding off-field drama