The St.George Queensland Reds have slipped to a hard fought 35-21 loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington tonight in their ANZAC Round clash.
The Reds were looking to celebrate the 100th Queensland cap of captain James Horwill and 50th for centre Ben Tapuai, but after leading 14-10 at halftime they were over run in the second half by the fast-finishing Hurricanes.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said his side had entered the second half with confidence, but had put themselves under pressure down in the early stages of the second half.
“At half time, the playing group were buoyed by some very good aspects of our first half. We controlled possession well and it ultimately led to a try and a number of penalty goals,” Graham said.
“The first seven minutes of the second half was chaotic and we struggled to gain shape and control, which they capitalised on. As was pretty consistent with the way the game had unfolded, with nine minutes to go we were just four points down and I felt we had the momentum to finish the game strongly. Unfortunately we made a few back-to-back errors which gave the Hurricanes momentum and allowed them to run away with it.”
Queensland scored two tries through Ben Lucas and replacement hooker James Hanson, while the Hurricanes’ five tries came through a hat-trick to Cory Jane and singles to TJ Perenara and Ardie Savea.
The temperature was a chilly 13 degrees at kick-off in Wellington and the Reds got off to the perfect start with a try to Lucas after just seven minutes.
The five-pointer was superbly set up by Quade Cooper. From quick ruck ball on the Hurricanes 22 the Reds flyhalf took the ball to the line before popping a well-timed pass to a charging Beau Robinson.
Robinson then found Lucas and the fullback dove over in the right-hand corner. Cooper’s conversion was unsuccessful but the Reds were up 5-0, thrilling the large contingent of Queensland fans in the stands.
The home side was back to 5-all with an unconverted try to Jane on 17 minutes, but five minutes later Cooper landed a difficult penalty attempt from just to the right of the posts and 40 metres out to reclaim the lead.
Just a minute later a second unconverted try to Jane put the home team back in front 10-8.
The Reds dominated the rest of the half and good pressure saw Cooper land two more penalties to give Queensland the 14-10 lead at half time.
The Hurricanes dominated the start of the second half in both possession and territory and scrumhalf Perenara went over after 47 minutes to put the home team back in front 17-14, with flyhalf Beauden Barrett’s conversion this time successful.
Replacement prop Greg Holmes, on for Ben Daley, then re-vitalised the Reds pack and a strong scrum on 53 minutes finally saw Queensland get into the Hurricanes half.
Moments later a strong run from Chris Feauai-Sautia saw Queensland threaten, but a turn over once again put the Reds back in their own territory.
The Hurricanes poured on the attack again and after multiple phases Jane dove over in the right corner to complete his hat-trick and put the hosts out to a 22-14 lead, with the conversion from Barrett going wide.
Coach Richard Graham went to his bench with a triple change -Hanson on for Saia Fainga’a, Rod Davies on for JJ Taulagi and Curtis Browning on for Jake Schatz. Will Genia came off minutes later after receiving a knock to the ankle, with Nick Frisby replacing him.
A penalty to Barrett made it 25-14 on 62 minutes but the Reds were back in the match shortly afterwards.
From a solid scrum on the Hurricanes 22, Cooper found centre Mike Harris who drove towards the line. From the next ruck Horwill took the ball on before a pick-and-drive from James Slipper was stopped just short.
Hanson then picked up and dove over with Cooper’s conversion putting Queensland back in striking distance, down by just four points, 25-21.
The Reds looked like they would take the lead just a minute later when Slipper broke the Hurricanes’ line out wide and found a rampaging Rob Simmons. But the big lock’s kick ahead was grounded by Victor Vito, just ahead of the Reds chasers.
Queensland had their chances in the final minutes but the Hurricanes were able to close the game out with a converted try to Savea and another penalty to Barrett.
Genia will receive scans in Auckland to confirm there is no damage to his ankle, but Reds medical staff were optimistic following the match.
Graham said it was vital his team responded positively to the disappointment of the loss.
“We’ve got to continue to believe that we’re a bloody good side capable of turning this around and gathering some momentum and posting a number of consecutive wins together,” Graham said.
The Reds now stay in New Zealand where they will play the Blues next Friday night (5.30pm AEST) at Eden Park in Auckland.
Full Time Result
St George Queensland Reds 21 (Ben Lucas, James Hanson tries; Quade Cooper conversion, 3 penalties) lost to Hurricanes 35 (Cory Jane 3, T J Perenara, Arti Savea tries; Beauden Barrett 2 conversions; 2 penalties) at Westpac Stadium, Wellington. (Half Time: Reds 14 Hurricanes 10), (Referee: Mike Fraser [NZL])
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