The St.George Queensland Reds finals campaign has come to a close with the Crusaders 38-9 winners in the opening Super Rugby Qualifier at AMI Stadium on Saturday night.
The Reds entered their third straight Super Rugby Finals Series off a solid regular season boasting 10 wins, two draws and only four losses but were unable to match the seven-time Super Rugby champion Crusaders, who remain undefeated at home this season.
It was a disappointing result to end four years of success under Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie, who along with a number of players will farewell Queensland Rugby at the conclusion of 2013.
The Reds entered the game with some confidence having won all four matches against New Zealand opposition during the regular season but four tries and 20 points to flyhalf Dan Carter was enough to see the Crusaders progress to the next round.
Flyhalf Quade Cooper scored all nine of the Reds points courtesy of three penalty goals with flanker Liam Gill coming to the closest to scoring the team’s first try, only to be denied by the TMO.
“We are massively disappointed. You want the big games to be your best games and unfortunately it wasn’t for us tonight,” McKenzie said.
“They started well and we leaked two tries, which was hard to chase. We got back to 21-9 after halftime and I thought we may have been a chance there, but unfortunately not.
“But, my memories will be about the past four years, not about tonight. A lot of good things happened during that time. There are games, like tonight, that you would prefer not to have, but that’s life in a tough competition.”
Captain James Horwill said he was extremely disappointed to see their season come to a close.
“Everyone is pretty down in the sheds for a lot of reasons. It’s disappointing when you don’t play the way you know you can,” Horwill said.
“I thought we were off the pace a little bit but they were very good. If they continue to play like that they will be a tough team to beat in this competition.
“It was very competitive at the breakdown but we knew that would be the case during the week. They were good at slowing our ball down and ensuring we didn’t get any rhythm in our game.
“Right now, there are a number of guys who put the jersey on for the last time. We spoke about that, it not being the last time they would pull on the jersey, but unfortunately it is.
“And that also goes for Ewen. He is a massive part of what this team has been about for the past four years.”
The Crusaders enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges and went ahead 10-0 after as many minutes with Ryan Crotty scoring the game’s opening try and Carter adding five points with the boot.
Two Cooper penalty goals got the Reds on the scoreboard although it was Carter who crossed for the Crusaders second try and following another penalty goal they would go into halftime ahead 21-6.
Following the break it was the Reds who came out the strongest and they were rewarded with a Cooper penalty within five minutes although once again the Crusaders punctured Queensland’s midfield with winger Tom Marshall crossing for their third try of the match.
A late try to Ryan Crotty and a penalty goal to Tom Taylor brought the scoring to a close.