The Sunwolves travel to sunny Brisbane for a Saturday afternoon match against a Queensland Reds side featuring both Goromaru and Tui in a game that will ensure a great turnout by Japanese rugby fans, and the Japanese media. The Reds are now playing for pride and the Sunwolves are hunting a second win in their inaugural season.
Queensland Reds fans arrived at Suncorp to a joyous surprise. Samu Kerevi has been ruled fit, and is starting, pushing Campbell Magnay to the bench. Game on!
It was a tight match that saw the Reds forwards driving the engine and the Sunwolves backs working their slick passing.
The Reds scrum once again made an impact in the first few minutes, and Slipper’s elbow made an impression on Ed Quirk in the same window. An early penalty saw Goromaru lining up for a successful kick that had the crowd celebrating (and the Japanese fans imitating his kick stance).
The Queensland Reds line out was strong with a win by Holmes that saw quick ball to Frisby and Browning crossed for his first try of the match. Goromaru’s conversion was successful and the Reds had raced out to an early lead.
One of Kerevi’s many breaks saw a quick pass to Slipper who would have put Frisby into the try zone if the pass wasn’t forward. Many times during the match the Reds momentum was lost with errors like this – the Sunwolves had better luck maintaining sustained pressure. The quick ball and tight passing between the Sunwolves backs is impressive to watch – the Reds players could take some attacking lessons from them.
I do admit a bias towards Nick Stiles, but I just don’t think that Mark O’Connor is delivering the goods with our backline. Possibly one could make the argument that he doesn’t have the most experienced players to work with, but I think that experience or no, even at Super Rugby level, the basics should be sticking.
The Sunwolves have less experience than us, and their attack is strong (Pisi definitely helps there!). Yamada also continues to impress for the Sunwolves with his speed and presence across the park.
Tui was not really present during the match today, and Derek Carpenter took advantage of this to cross for his first try. Perfect timing from Kizu saw him offload to Carpenter who didn’t even pause to push off Tui. Pisi converted.
Loving a forward try, Slipper’s was a favourite – short lineout, Neville having a run, Frisby cleaned it out to Slipper who dummied to cross. His reach was juuuuust long enough for that one.
The Reds went to the break with a four point lead – definitely not enough to be comfortable based on the speed of the Sunwolves backline and equal possession.
Browning spun off the back of a maul to cross for his second and continued to show how comfortable the No 8 jersey is looking on him in Jake Schatz’s absence.
Carpenter’s second try was my favourite of the night – beautiful backline work. Viljoen to Yamada who passed to Pisi who offloaded so quickly to Carpenter he almost didn’t touch the ball! Carpenter skipped away for his double. The Reds and Sunwolves continued the trend of trading tries.
Of major concern for the Queensland Reds is Goromaru’s shoulder charge/tackling without arms — honestly, amateur hour. Not once, but TWICE tonight he rolled that out. The second time saw him come off worse against the unit of Laiki Moli. Worse, the rubbish ‘tackle’ meant that Moli scored in the corner. Goromaru should expect to hear more following the match. And not just from me. The citing commissioner will be having a closer look I think.
Ben Matwijow has been a great step-in for the Queensland Reds following Kane Douglas’ season-ending-before-it-started injury, but I think Caydern Neville is more valuable as a starter. He took advantage of starting this match to gallop away for a try – a run of more than 40m was the result of some crazy play and a turnover by the Sunwolves – in the space of only seconds the Reds had the ball and Frisby put Neville in space.
The Ranga v Ranga battle that many wanted to see was a wee tussle between Magnay and Quirk. Over quickly, but brought a laugh. Mission accomplished.
The Reds have played better, but the Sunwolves couldn’t capitalise to come away with their second of the season. The bye next week and then the break for the England tests will be a good chance for the non-Wallaby players to regroup and focus on finishing the season strongly.
The Sunwolves move on to Canberra next weekend to play the Brumbies, where a win will be a massive ask, off the back of the type of rugby the Brums play.
Me? I am looking forward to Cheik wiping the floor with Jones in the June tests. I have a loooooooong memory and Jones broke a lot of players as Wallaby coach and his tenure as the Reds coach was really when the rot set in (the first time).
*third straight win at home is not a headline I thought I’d write this year.
The Game Changer
Not one but two try-saving tackles by Chris Feauai-Sautia for the Queensland Reds in the first half meant that the Sunwolves’ attacking ploy wasn’t as costly as it could have been.
The G&GR MOTM
Samu Kerevi and Curtis Browning were pretty much a draw for MOTM, but Kerevi just pips Browning (who is settling in nicely at 8). Kerevi had a barnstorming match with 130+m and 11 defenders beaten, but he needs to refine his decision-making a little bit in preparation for his almost certain Wallaby presence. 3 turnovers conceded is 3 too many.
Frisby is still developing and learning, and while Phipps has the Wallaby starting jersey nailed down, I think Frisby could benefit at least from time spent in camp with the boys.
Score & Scorers
[one_half last=”no”]Queensland Reds: 35
Tries: Browning 2, Slipper, Neville
Conversions: Goromaru 2, McIntyre
Penalties: Goromaru 2, McIntyre [/one_half]
[one_half last=”yes”]Sunwolves: 25
Tries: Carpenter 2, Moli
Conversions: Pisi 2
Penalties: Pisi 2 [/one_half]
Cards & citings
None – but expecting possibly two post-match censures for Goromaru and Fa’agase (thankful for the bye next week)