Reds’ reality check: Four things we learnt from great’s historic night

Reds’ reality check: Four things we learnt from great’s historic night

A golden opportunity for the Reds to announce themselves as true premiership contenders has fallen to the wayside in the past two weeks, with the latest gut-wrenching defeat to the Brumbies leaving coach Les Kiss’ men with a reality check heading into the bye.

Despite taking a nine-point lead deep into the contest, the Queensland outfit was inevitably forced into the Brumbies’ game in the 20-19 defeat, as the likes of milestone man James Slipper forced turnovers and defended their line stoically.

Noah Lolesio of the Brumbies kicks the ball out of play to secure his team’s victory.

Noah Lolesio of the Brumbies kicks the ball out of play to secure his team’s victory.Credit:

The Reds were unable to produce the same free flowing brand of rugby which had some corners of the Super Rugby Pacific world whispering their name as title threats, and after a lacklustre defeat to the Western Force looked to orchestrate a boilover of the Australian game’s leading outfit.

After opening the scoring through Josh Flook, courtesy of a passage of offloads from Seru Uru and Peni Ravai, the Reds fought from 7-10 down in the second half to score a penalty try and a Josh Nasser five-pointer in quick succession.

But the desperate goal line defence which spearheaded their last triumph at Suncorp Stadium against the Chiefs was not there in two key moments – Brumbies fullback Tom Wright helping himself to a double, and both in two-on-two situations.

Cormac Daly of the Reds reacts to his team’s defeat.

Cormac Daly of the Reds reacts to his team’s defeat.Credit:

The Reds had a late chance to snatch a triumph in the final three minutes, earning a scrum penalty just inside their own half to give more than 17,000 fans a chance at witnessing the end of the Brumbies’ Australian rugby dominance.

But the urgency, the cohesion, and the desire simply did not appear to be there in the manner it had been thus far this season, as the Brumbies looked to flex their muscles at the breakdown.

Queensland will take on Moana Pasifika after the bye, followed by clashes with New Zealand powerhouses the Blues, Highlanders and Crusaders.

But despite the back-to-back defeats, co-captain Tate McDermott was confident the foundation had been laid to remain a force heading into a challenge period for the club – buoyed by the bravery shown against a unit he regarded as the nation’s finest.

“I think what we’ve seen the last two weeks, and it’s part of our development around when we don’t have the momentum, the way we’re trying to play is it opens us up at the breakdown,” McDermott said.

“That’s huge for us, and we were sometimes really good there and marched our way up the field … but sometimes when we were a little bit late there I thought the Brumbies were excellent at disrupting that.

“That’s on us to learn when teams are doing that to us, we’ve got to give them the ball because our defence is at a stage now where we can give them the ball in the right part of the field and put them under the microscope there.

“I think the bye’s come at a great time. We used up quite a bit of juice in those first couple of games, we’ll have some troops coming back after the bye, and they’ll be really important in how the group responds.

“We’re positive about where we stand, we know what we’re capable of … I’m really proud of how we bounced back after last week. Last week was disappointing, tonight wasn’t.”

Petaia cut loose

Plagued by concussion symptoms recently, Jordan Petaia sent a signal to Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt that wherever he was thrust around the backline, he would be a threat.

The versatile livewire, having begun the season at fullback, was overlooked in favour of Jock Campbell for the No.15 jumper – instead returning from a week’s lay-off on the wing.

But come Saturday night, Petaia made it clear he would not be confined to his flank – something Kiss alluded to during the week.

While he was often seen probing through the middle, causing many a headache for the Brumbies defence, it was his willingness to link up on either side of the field that made him such a daunting prospect.

As Queensland trailed, Petaia made a long-range break down his right touchline from his own end, before his pack eventually forced a penalty try via a deliberate maul collapse shortly after.

Moments later, he was darting through the Brumbies down the left, with Josh Nasser the beneficiary of the field position to extend the lead.

While much of the contest descended into a dour affair, the 24-year-old’s efforts could not be questioned – finishing with 177 running metres from 11 carries, beating eight defenders and making two clean breaks in the process.

“It was his home today, and he did it brilliantly, I’ve said often that players must be able to play two positions at least … so that’s fantastic for us to be able to utilise him on the wing,” Kiss said.

“He went better than I thought in terms of he’s been out for a bit … we thought he might cramp a bit earlier, those types of things come into play, but I’ve got to say the medics managed him well, and he seemed to get better and stronger as the game went on for sure.”

Lacking the killer instinct

Across the opening five rounds, much of the Reds’ success had come down to their set piece, while their offloading game had posed problems for their rivals.

But against a structured Brumbies defensive unit, their yardage could not be backed up with genuine try-scoring answers.

Queensland gained 705m to the Brumbies 427, and ultimately outscored their rivals three tries to two, while they beat 27 defenders to just 11.

But they were forced to rue their 14 turnovers, and where they chanced their arm once they garnered penalties, the Brumbies were more than happy to accept the three-points on offer, with the boot of Noah Lolesio proving the difference.

“We probably had less conversion in the A-zone than we usually had in that first half, possibly another opportunity there to put seven points on possibly just thrusts that game a bit further in our favour,” Kiss admitted.

“I think we at one stage had five entries with one result midway or two-third through the first half.

“But our attacking shape and ability to penetrate and create options is there for sure, our defence was really strong and kept them at bay for periods of play – probably just a couple of moments of management put us on the back foot and gave them the field position they needed.”

Slipper’s slice of history

History is within a team call for James Slipper, as the Wallabies champion equalled the Australian Super Rugby record for most appearances in fitting style.

A typically talismanic effort from the 34-year-old, in which he and his fellow pack members refused to give their Queensland rivals breathing space around the ruck, put the exclamation mark on his 177th cap – tied with former teammate Stephen Moore.

In classic fashion, it was a tireless, no nonsense display from the veteran – working viciously at the ruck to keep the Reds from gaining any momentum.

“We caught up outside at the end of the game there. It’s a massive effort, isn’t it? James hasn’t always had it his own way, he’s toiled hard,” Kiss said.

“I think he’s got a huge respect by everyone in the rugby community, but he played his part tonight. You can’t be too angry when a guy’s got his money like that, he’s earned his crust.”

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