The Queensland Reds are finally back for their first home game of the season in week four of the competition. After accruing Platinum Frequent Flyer status in the first three weeks, the get to play in front of a home audience. I know this word gets used too much, but this is a vital game, with any hope of staying in touch with the Brumbies and finals football already front of mind. Can the Sunwolves come and spoil the party? Will the jungle drums beat just that little bit louder for coach Brad Thorn? Let’s take a look…
It was clear from the start that this game would not be lacking for excitement with the Reds looking to go wide early and often. Hunter Paisami and Alex Mafi made early breaks and Harry Wilson was getting through a mountain of work. The possession told with Liam Wright sneaking over in the fifth minute off a lineout move. Campbell missed the conversion and it was 5-0 Reds early. The lead was doubled soon after with a line break down the left eventually turning into several phases on the line. The Reds looked like they were going to botch it with acres of space to the left, but eventually Wilson picked from a ruck with a short ball to Tate McDermott who saw Taniela Tupou off a long run and no one was stopping that. Campbell converted and it was 12-0 Reds with just eight minutes gone.
The Sunwolves had barely touched the ball in the opening 15 minutes and you sensed it wouldn’t end well for them. After Tate McDermott was taken out in a ruck, the maul after the penalty fell over but the Reds continued to hold the ball and this time it was Hunter Paisami who came in hard and straight, and got over for his first Super Rugby Try. 19-0 Reds after seventeen minutes and the Reds were looking to keep their foot on the throat.
There was a brief period when the Sunwolves had some possession and looked like they might score, with the Reds helping them through some of the same penalties we see from them week in week out. A key scrum penalty they won on their won line set them downfield again and a rampaging Henry Speight cut inside and with a clever delayed pass set Tate McDermott over and its 26-0 with the conversion from Campbell.
Ben T’eo got a yellow card for shoulder charge and all sorts of alarm bells must have been ringing at this point. A massive overlap appeared and it looked like 4 Sunwolves in the bin and the Reds were lined up. Eventually it came to Taniela Tupou who passed to Lukhan Salakaia-Loto who went over. 31-0 after 34 minutes.
Right as the hooter sounded , the Reds scored again, this time from a Sunwolves error. Hamish Stewart put James O’Connor into a gap, who set Henry Speight free. Speight was cut down just short but a backing up O’Connor was there on the inside. With the try and the missed conversion it was 36-0 at the break.
Halftime and the Reds were looking to put two halves together and it started well, albeit from a Sunwolves error. They won a scrum penalty on their own 22 and took a quick tap and lost the ball, which Tate McDermott grubbered through and dived on to score. 43-0 and we are still a point minute. It kept going soon after with another dropped ball by the Sunwolves falling into Hamish Stewart’s arms who went over. 50-0 after 48. Nothing was going right for the Sunwolves at this point.
Coach Brad Thorn began making changes early to give the bench serious minutes after largely ignoring them in previous weeks. Fraser McReight, Harry Hoopert, Scott Malolua, Josh Nasser and Isaac Lucas all getting serious minutes, with Lucas going to fullback. Pleasingly, the scrum kept humming and the team still looked pretty fluid, even if the points dried up.
The Sunwolves finally pounced after 63 minutes, when the leaky looking defence of Henry Speight finally broke. He was caught 15m inside his man with the replacement flyhalf Moriya cross kicking for Fifita to score. The Reds hit back almost immediately, with Jock Campbell breaking the line and the inside pass to Josh Nasser supporting brilliantly to score. 57-5 and all sorts of records were broken. The ink wasn’t yet dry on the new record when Isaac Lucas darted through a hole with his lightning acceleration and it was 64-5 with eight minutes remaining.
That is how it finished- a record margin for the Reds in Super Rugby and also the most points scored by them in Super Rugby. Ten tries scored was the medicine they needed at home after the long road trip, but the trick will be to back it up next week at home against the Sharks.
MATCH TURNING POINT
The Reds were on the front foot from the start of the game and didn’t look headed. If there was any sort of turning point it was the period after around 25 minutes when the Reds held out a couple of repeat penalties on their own line, won a scrum from a maul, then a penalty from the ensuing scrum. The Reds held possession, went up the other end and scored. at 26-0. They were unlikely to be beaten anyway by that point but that period pretty much sealed it.
Games like this are hard to pick, because even the passenger can look like a star when you win by such a large margin. I am going to give it to James O’Connor- he was in so much of the good stuff and just looks so assured in the ten jersey, even when it isn’t his preferred position. It says much of his maturity that he is making it work and playing with a sure head and smarts that this Reds backline have needed for so long. An honourable mention to Tate McDermott.
Harry Wilson continues to get through so much work and impresses many with his aggression and starch. If he can work on his ability to keep the ball in a scrum it will help him no end. Tate McDermott continues to be the best halfback playing in Australia, and if we aren’t going to play a rookie at ten, James O’Connor is surely it. Liam Wright looks everything a captain and if he can use his voice with the ref a little more it will help in the key 50/50 calls.
Tries: McDermott 2, Wright, Tupou, Paisami, Salakaia-Loto, O’Connor, Stewart, Campbell, Lucas
Conv: Campbell 7
Ben Te’o got a yellow card in the 31st minute for a shoulder charge.
Crowd: 11,898 came out for the first home game, which was up hugely from the 8,600 that came to see the corresponding fixture last year.