No longer the whipping boys, Queensland Reds have emerged as early frontrunners after continuing their unbeaten start to the Super Rugby AU season.

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The Reds leapfrogged the resting Brumbies with their historic 18-18 draw with the Melbourne Rebels as NSW Waratahs broke a three-match, four-month duck with a 23-14 comeback win over the Western Force.

The bottom-placed Australian finishers in 2018 and 2019, the developing Reds have turned the corner since Super Rugby’s reincarnation after the coronavirus-forced shutdown in March.

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The Aotearoa Rugby Pod – Ep 2

Brad Thorn’s men backed up their first win over the Waratahs in seven years with a gritty late fightback to share the points against the Rebels at Brookvale Oval.

Down by 10 points with five minutes remaining, the Reds rallied to give fans a first-time look at golden-point “Super Time”.

While neither team could break the stalemate during the extra 10 minutes, the Reds will enter their round-three hosting of the F orce on Friday night top of the conference for the first time in many moons.

“It would have been easy to put the cue in the rack when we were down by 10 points but the guys just keep going,” Thorn said.

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“You can always improve your game but (the Reds have) that stuff inside you that wants to compete, just play, and it’s something the Queensland jersey demands so it’s good.”

Rebels coach Dave Wessels was much less impressed with his side’s inability to close out the contest.

“We should have had the game in the bag,” he said.

Instead Wessels and the homeless Rebels will have a fortnight to stew before resuming against the Waratahs after a bye in round three.

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The Waratahs face the Brumbies at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night after fighting back from a 14-0 deficit to deny the Force at the SCG in the Perth franchise’s first Super Rugby outing since being cut in 2017.

It was the Waratahs’ first victory since they beat the L ions in February and coach Rob Penney was happy to sa vour it without getting carried away.

“You can sleep a little easier knowing you’ve got points in the bag,” Penney said.

“The main driver in this young group is to make progress and that looked to me that they made another little step forward.

“We’re still on a rollercoaster.

“I don’t think that’s the end of our ups and downs but if we keep working hard and are true to ourselves and keep the faith, this group’s got potential to get a lot better.”

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