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Israel Folau scored on Super Rugby debut and the Waratahs produced a stirring comeback but Queensland ensured NSW's Michael Cheika era started with a 25-17 loss at Suncorp Stadium.
Tireless flanker Ed Quirk was the hero for the Reds in an entertaining and tense interstate derby, setting up a sensational match-winning try to stand-in captain Ben Tapuai with six minutes left.
Quirk barged his way past four defenders in a 40-metre run and then off-loaded to Tapuai after code-hopper Folau produced a last-ditch tackle.
Tapuai finished with two tries but deflected all praise to Quirk and his impressive back-row amigos Liam Gill and Jake Schatz in their battle against an all-Wallabies pack.
"They were unbelievable," the centre said.
"It was a big ask for the young guns to step up but they did the job and got us over the line."
In a far cry from the gritty interstate derbies of years past, the Reds played a high-octane game which ran NSW off their feet in the first half to the delight of a home crowd of 35,801.
The 17-3 halftime scoreline was a true reflection of proceedings as the Reds - with boom youngster Chris Feauai-Sautia starring - looked flash while their arch-rivals paid for a litany of bumbling errors.
New Waratahs coach Cheika was an unhappy man as Queensland scored two tries in the opening 10 minutes and should have crossed more times as the NSW lineout crashed and they failed to hold on to the ball in contact.
It didn't get any better from the second-half restart as Tom Carter fumbled a poor pass and Wycliff Palu was immobilised.
But the match turned on its head when radar-boot Mike Harris hit the post with a penalty attempt and Drew Mitchell countered 30m to put NSW on the front foot.
Three minutes later Folau crossed after a Michael Hooper pass deflected off Digby Ioane into the arms of Bernard Foley, who easily put the former Queensland league winger over for his 24th try in his 27th appearance at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland started losing their lineouts and dropping off tackles but the Waratahs bombed a certain try when replacement fullback Ben Volavola wasted a four-man overlap with a terrible pass.
Volavola quickly made up for the mistake by shredding Harris on the outside to equalise at 17-all with 20 minutes left.
A 49-metre bomb - from a ruck penalty sparked by hooker James Hanson's counter-rucking - by Harris nudged the home side into the lead eight minutes later.
Despite his try, it was a deflating start by Folau who shared time at fullback and wing and was well contained by the Reds kick-chase defence.
He had the ball jolted from his grip three times in tackles and also failed to stop Dom Shipperley run over him to score the opening try.
NSW could rue two easy missed penalty goals by Brendan McKibbin in the first half as well as a near try by lock Kane Douglas who charged down a Quade Cooper kick but grounded the ball just before the line and lost control.
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