The ruthless Crusaders downed the Reds 57-29 in an entertaining Mother Day’s Super Rugby clash at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It was the most points ever scored in a Super Rugby match at Suncorp with 10 tries in total – four to the Reds through Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, Dom Shipperley, Rod Davies and Rob Simmons and six to the free-flowing Crusaders. The Reds led 17-16 at half time.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said he thought his team had started the game well and were in control prior to half time, but lapses early in the second half cost them dearly.
“In the first half I thought we had the balance right. A combination of putting the ball in the corner and putting them under some pressure for extended periods, along with good shape in our attack, had us leading at the break,” Graham said.
“The two tries within the space of five minutes after half time put us under some pressure. We didn’t handle the next period of time as well as we would have liked and allowed the game to become fractured - Dagg and McNicholl took advantage of it on the right-hand side.
“We’ve got a six-day turnaround until we meet the Rebels at Suncorp next Saturday night and that’s all we need to think about right now.”
The Reds took the lead early through a close range penalty goal to Quade Cooper before the Crusaders hit back through a converted try to former Queensland schoolboy, winger Nemani Nadolo.
But this just spurred the home team to more attack. On 13 minutes some superb play from wing Dom Shipperley electrified the big Mother’s Day crowd with a scintilating try.
Colin Slade added a penalty on 15 minutes to take the score to 10-3 but the Reds poured on the pressure with the man advantage when Andy Ellis was sent to the bin.
Good ball at the line-out from James Horwill on 20 minutes and some quick ball movement saw 20-year-old winger JJ Taulagi plunge over in the corner for his first Super Rugby try. Cooper landed a superb conversion from the left touchline to make it 10-10.
The Reds were in again soon enough with Cooper this time holding up a pass superbly for Shipperley to charge in to a gap and score next to the posts to make it 17-10.
Slade brought it back to 17-13 on 28 minutes with a second well-struck penalty and the gap was reduced to 17-16 after a scrum penalty on 36 minutes, also converted by Slade.
The Crusaders continued to pressurize the Reds scrum as half time approached but the Queensland pack held firm to give the home team the narrowest of leads at the break.
Jono Owen came on for Greg Holmes at half time upfront for the Reds but he was unable to stop opposing prop Wyatt Crockett crashing over from a quick tap just two minutes into the second half. Slade’s conversion made the score 23-17.
A freakish bounce from an Israel Dagg kick saw Johnny McNicholl sprint away for a try just a minute later with Slade’s conversion giving the Reds all to do, down 30-17 with six minutes gone in the second half.
The Reds continued to play open exciting rugby but they were punished by clinical play from the Crusaders as they ran in two more quick tries.
Firstly Luke Whitelock benefitted from another piece of freakish play from a kick to gallop under the posts before Nadolo got his second, both converted by Slade.
The Reds hit back through Rod Davies on 63 minutes and a clever cross-field kick from Cooper saw Rob Simmons crash over to score out wide with seven minutes remaining, with the flyhalf’s pin-point conversion from the touchline making it 50-29.
It seemed the Reds might score again through some stunning ball-handling but McNicholl intercepted to run away and score his second. Slade adding the conversion.
While disappointed with the result, Graham was pleased to see several milestones recognised in the Reds’ first home game in a month.
“I thought Curtis Browning had an outstanding game in his run-on debut. His work in defence and at the tackle contest was very good. He will be better for the opportunity. Dave McDuling made his debut, which is great reward for a guy who has worked through the setback of two knee reconstructions," Graham added.
The Reds return to Suncorp next Saturday night for the big Australian derby versus the Melbourne Rebels.