An injury to captain Jake Gordon and a moment of madness from returning talent Izaia Perese have compounded the NSW Waratahs' woes after a record 41-7 loss to the Queensland Reds in their Super Rugby AU opener.
Nine minutes of brilliance on Friday were all the Reds needed to spark the new-look season into life, their five-tries-to-one win being a seventh-straight at Suncorp Stadium and a Super Rugby record victory over their rivals.
The hosts had scored 24 of their points by the 18th minute but only after the Waratahs had scored first - their only points of the night - in a whirlwind opener that did justice to the rule tweaks made to encourage attacking play.
The Waratahs hung tough but Perese's red card for a reckless, late flipping tackle on Hunter Paisami and ankle injuries to Gordon and Joey Walton shape as huge blows for Rob Penney's young side.
"He's a big loss, it wouldn't be great for us," Penney said of Gordon, who was the Waratahs' try scorer and best on ground until he departed with 15 minutes to play.
"We created a couple of little glimpses but we weren't good enough ... that period when we got the ball we let it go too cheaply, some defensive howlers, some weak moments mentally that really cost us against a Reds side with that firepower in that backline."
Halfback Gordon scored inside three minutes of his first game as skipper as the Waratahs threatened a boilover but, led by interim captain James O'Connor, the Reds piled on 41 straight points for their seventh-straight Suncorp Stadium win.
Leading the Reds in place of the injured Liam Wright, O'Connor slotted a penalty to begin proceedings and was then given the benefit of the doubt when his final pass to try-scorer Jock Campbell looked to have floated forward.
Hooker Alex Mafi then hung on to a low pass and twisted over from close range before Filipo Daugunu finished a Hunter Paisami line-break.
Suddenly it was 24-7 with 22 minutes still to play in the half, Angus Scott-Young's terrific low tackle on the line denying Gordon a second try to maintain their advantage.
The Waratahs' task was made tougher with the loss of former Queensland Reds and Brisbane Broncos talent Perese in the 36th minute for a dangerous throwing tackle on Paisami.
He was able to be replaced after 20 minutes as part of the tournament's rule tweaks and the Reds threatened, but were unable to exploit the numerical advantage before that.
Halfback Tate McDermott laid a razor-sharp tackle on drifting Waratahs playmaker Will Harrison to stop a promising raid while second-year lock Seru Uru was a standout in the Reds starting side.
Gordon looked to suffer an ankle injury in a tackle with 15 minutes to play, O'Connor then drilling the game's first 50-22 kick and Daugunu skipped through the line from a scrum to seal the contest.
Deployed off the Reds bench, Taniela Tupou made a late impact with a huge push to win a Waratahs scrum in front of their own posts, before Ilaisa Droasese scored with his first touch on debut on the stroke of fulltime.
"There's some stuff we can sort out, but there was some really good, entertaining rugby in that first half," Reds coach Brad Thorn said.
"There was a bit of an abyss there for about 35 minutes but the guys got some pay there at the end."