Reds fans were hoping that the third match against a South African team would have a different result to the previous two weeks. Back at home where they had their first win only weeks ago, it is fascinating to witness the support for a team who still isn’t winning matches, but with no RG, fans are willing to give a little. Injuries continue to haunt the Reds with both stalwarts and new recruits sitting out, and the depth on the bench remaining thin, affecting the Reds ability to finish. The Cheetahs were hoping that their pack would dominate the Reds forwards and Peterson would be able to take advantage of loose ball to work his magic.
The start of this match was a little wobbly with a Frisby box kick going awry, which was perhaps a portent of what was to come for the first 40 minutes.
The duelling boots of McIntyre and Zeilinga saw both teams with successful penalties inside the first 5 minutes, but the play devolved from there. Tui continues to impress with several strong breaks (and yay for re-signing him for 2017!) but our handling errors cost us dearly.
Most of the first half saw the Queensland Reds return to some of their worst habits, and they suffered badly. Defensively they held together, but they paid hard for that – for most of the first half they only had 29% possession. Hard to win with no ball. And poor decisions when we did have the ball. I must admit that I tried to wipe much of my memory of the first half, because it didn’t show any of the promise or progress that had been made over the past 4 weeks.
Anthony Fainga’a was binned for 10 following a late shoulder charge. The Cheetahs scored through Uzair Casseim while FTA was off and Zeilinger converted to lead 10-3.
Yeeesh. The Reds, for 40 minutes, went backwards. Even players that were dominant over the past few weeks were either quiet or made boo-boos. The scrum continued to be the shining light for the Reds, and Holmes in particular was a joy to watch. Outside the scrum, don’t bother.
And it was the scrum who closed the gap in the 40th minute when we won a tight head scrum 5m out from the Cheetahs line and Curtis Browning drove over for a try. We went to the break 10-10.
Whatever was said in the sheds at half time worked for the Reds. They came out with their game face on.
Frisby crossed in the 46th minute after some wonderful play – McIntyre to Kerevi to Nabuli on the outside who passed back inside to Kerevi to offload to Frisby and he was over. Great support play and the passing was crisp – players were pulling defenders and still making ground. Smart play.
Frisby’s second try also featured some very handy play. Kerevi (of course) made a linebreak that Nabuli supported before Simmons and Slipper played their part. A quick pass from Slipper to Frisby, who dummied beautifully to cross. The Cheetahs didn’t read that come at all. Nabuli, when he runs forward (instead of crabbing across the field) is very powerful – O’Connor needs to work hard here because Nabuli could be as dangerous as Ioane at his best for the Reds.
Gill was binned in the 68th minute for cynical play and the pressure was on as most of the bench was now on for the Reds. The Cheetahs scored within a minute through Raymond Rhule who absolutely put the foot down to beat three defenders.
The Cheetahs had a try disallowed in the dying minutes of the game as Britz (who surely models his hair on the worst 80s perms) and Simmons were involved in something off the ball. TMO George and Ref Ben clearly disagreed on what happened (and the cameras didn’t really capture it clearly), but Britz was binned and the Reds walked away with a win.
It was crushing to witness Samu Kerevi break down when he left the field in the 64th minute, as he has been brilliant this year – most line breaks, most run metres (first SR player to pass 1000m for the 2016 year) and has set up, and scored, some wonderful tries.
For the Cheetahs, Peterson had scored 6 tries in his previous 5 matches (admittedly one against the Sunwolves) but it was a little surprising to see him so quiet, even with the possession the Cheetahs had. Our defence was effective for most of the night, with players making the right tackles and sticking most of them (even in the dodgy first half).
Next week against a rested Crusaders will be a big test.
The Game Changer
The second try to Frisby. I know it was late in the match, but with our usual MO of wobbling in the last 20 minutes, we needed more of a buffer to hold out the Cheetahs. Phew.
The G&GR MOTM
I have already taken some heat over my selection of MOTM. I thought Nick ‘Pickle’ Frisby deserved it. His first minute of the match did not bode well, but he steadied and delivered fast ball, solid kicks and two meat pies. The front row were also fabulous (Slipper, Ready and Holmes), but I felt the need to share the normal forward love with a scrum half.
Samu Kerevi’s hand injury may have killed his chances of a Wallaby jersey in June, which is one of the harshest moments of the year if true.
Score & Scorers
Tries: N Frisby 2, C Browning
Conversions: J McIntyre 3
Penalties: J McIntyre 3
Tries: U Cassiem, R Rhule
Conversions: F Zeilinga 2
Penalties: F Zeilinga 1
Cards & citings
Yellow: Anthony Fainga’a (28′), Liam Gill (68′), Britz (78′)