The St.George Queensland Reds have overcome late injury disruptions and torrential rain to guts out a well-deserved 18-6 victory over the Western Force in their Round 2 Asteron Life Super Rugby clash at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
The Reds recorded a two tries to nil victory over the Force in front of 14,199 faithful Queensland fans, putting on a powerful display up front to set up the result. Lachie Turner finished the Reds’ first try, following an 80-metre team effort, while the second was a penalty try following a tighthead penalty on the Force’s five-metre line. Turner added one conversion and two penalties to complete a solid performance at fullback.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said: “It was a massive effort from our team.
“We spoke during the week and before the game about repaying the Queensland faithful. Given the weather we have had in the last couple of days and this morning, to see the number of people turn up tonight was inspiring for the group.
“This was a physical game and the team showed a lot of character. I thought it was excellent. That being said, we’ve got a short turnaround now for the Highlanders, so it’s straight back to business as usual tomorrow to prepare for that match.”
With 14 players already unavailable for selection for the match, the Reds were dealt another injury blow shortly before kick-off, with new flyhalf James O’Connor ruled out after a fitness test on his knee. Reserve scrumhalf Nick Frisby stepped in to the pivotal Number 10 jersey and steered the team well.
While O’Connor missed the opportunity to make his Queensland debut, one new face available was former All Blacks and Highlanders loose forward Adam Thomson, who made a huge difference to the Reds’ forward momentum right from the kick off.
In the seventh minute he diffused a dangerous situation, stealing a Force lineout close to the Reds’ line.
Thomson then combined with new teammate Liam Gill to win an important breakdown penalty on 12 minutes to set up a good attacking position on the Force 22.
Lock James Horwill flew high in the lineout and after strong bursts by Gill and Number 8 Jake Schatz the Reds won another penalty that new goal kicker Turner converted to make it 3-0, and bring up his first-ever penalty goal in Super Rugby.
There was an intensity to the Reds that was missing in Canberra last week and they won another breakdown penalty on 17 minutes which Turner landed from 40 metres out to make it 6-0.
The Force brought it back to 6-3 on 21 minutes through a penalty to Sias Ebersohn.
But the Reds went straight back on the attack and a strong run from Samu Kerevi saw them win another penalty close to the Force line. The Reds gave up the chance of a penalty goal to set up a lineout five metres out from the line.
Force reserve prop Chris Heiberg was then sin-binned for a professional foul but the Force held on. Horwill also went to the blood bin, with Dave McDuling coming on.
Captain James Slipper then went off with a head knock, with Ben Daley coming on wearing his ‘Be Great, Do Good’ headgear, this week in support of Live Out Loud – The Nat Cook Foundation, which aims to tackle childhood obesity and increase levels of health and well-being.
At first the Reds could not make the numerical advantage count however with the only scoring in the next eight minutes a second penalty to Ebersohn to level the match at 6-all.
But then the Reds opened it up on 34 minutes.
It started on the Reds 22 with Chris Kuridrani, taking a high ball and launching a counter attack down the left wing. He found Chris Feauai-Sautia who in turn found Kerevi who burst down the field before popping the ball inside to Turner who bumped Luke Morahan to complete a superb team try.
Turner missed the conversion but the Reds went to the break deserved leaders at 11-6.
The Reds put the pressure on early in the second half with Kuridrani re-gathering a kick and being stopped just short of the line. Feauai-Sautia then trapped the Force in-goal to set up a five-metre scrum.
The Reds’ scrum was strong but Force scrumhalf Alby Mathewson infringed to give the Reds a penalty. Turner’s attempt hit the upright but the Force knocked on the dangerously bouncing ball to set up another scrum.
As the Reds continued to reset scrums close to the Force line, they won two more penalties, and when the third penalty was awarded to the home team it seemed a penalty try would be awarded by New Zealand referee Nick Briant.
Briant refused however to award the five points but it was only a temporary reprieve as from the next scrum Frisby sent a superb ball to Feauai-Sautia who strolled over to score, but after numerous replays, TMO George Ayoub, decided the ball went marginally forward out of Frisby’s hands and the try was disallowed.
Again the reprieve was only momentary. A superb scrum against the feed by the Reds pack saw them shove the Force backwards once again, and this time when the WA side infringed Briant had no option but to finally award the penalty try.
Turner converted and with 25 minutes remaining the Reds were completely deserving of their hard-fought 18-6 lead.
The Force scrum problems continued as Curtis Browning came on for the impressive Schatz with 15 minutes remaining.
The Force kept the ball in hand in the closing stages as they pushed hard for a try but desperate Reds defence held firm.
The Reds were then put on the back foot in the final five minutes when Genia cleared but his kick was called back for being outside the 22.
The Force continued to put on the pressure but the Reds were determined and dug deep to hold on.
Fittingly a final scrum penalty to the Reds allowed Genia to kick into touch as the siren sounded and the home fans could celebrate a hard fought and richly deserved victory.
The Reds will be looking forward to trying to notch a second-straight win when they travel to New Zealand to take on the Highlanders next Friday.
ASTERON LIFE SUPER RUGBY
ST.GEORGE QUEENSLAND REDS 18 (Lachie Turner try, Penalty try; Turner 2 penalties, conversion) defeated WESTERN FORCE 6 (Sias Ebersohn 2 penalties) at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. (HALF TME: Reds 11 Force 6) (Referee: Nick Briant [NZL]).