The St.George Queensland Reds have finished their pre-season with a solid 35-12 win over the Crusaders in front of a raucous crowd of 11,270 at Ballymore Stadium.
The Reds forwards backed up their solid performance from last week and the conditions in Brisbane allowed their backline to play with much more structure, as they strung phases together under the direction of new flyhalf Karmichael Hunt.
The Reds dominated proceedings in the first half, scoring four tries to none to take a 28-0 lead into the break. Hunt added goal kicking duties to his new role and slotted four conversions from four shots, missing one penalty goal attempt on the stroke of half time. The Crusaders scored the first two tries of the second half, to close the gap, but it wasn’t enough to stop the men from Ballymore.
The home side scored through Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, James Horwill (2), Samu Kerevi and a penalty try. Hunt kicked four conversions and Nick Frisby added one. The Crusaders scored through Luke Romano and Matt Todd. Dan Carter kicked one conversion.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said: “I was really pleased with the intent. It was a physical game and that’s very good preparation going into next week,” he said.
“I’m happy with some of our ball skills and our handling, and to score five tries against a very good Crusaders side is good reward for their efforts. I’m pleased with the result but we can take lessons from it also.”
The home side opened the scoring 10 minutes into the game following a piece of brilliance from scrumhalf Will Genia, who took a quick tap on halfway and chipped ahead for winger Jamie-Jerry Taulagi to regather and score.
The next three tries belonged to the Reds’ pack, with lock James Horwill notching a double with a pick-and-go from the base of the ruck on the Crusaders’ goal line.
The final try of the first half was set up by some stunning play from the Reds’ backs, as Taulagi beat Crusaders flyhalf Dan Carter before releasing winger Chris Kuridrani who burst 30 metres down the sideline before flicking the ball to Genia who found Anthony Fainga’a in open space, only to be tackled just short of the line.
The play was called held up, but the Reds’ scrum had its most dominant effort of the match, forcing a penalty try out of the Crusaders’ pack.
The second half opened up somewhat, as both teams started to play with a bit less structure and the Crusaders capitalised, scoring through Romano and Todd with runs from in close.
Kerevi scored the final try of the match, latching onto a bounce pass from Frisby and running 20 metres to touch down under the posts.
The Reds emptied their bench in the second half, using the final pre-season match as an opportunity to give all 11 reserves a run, including Duncan Paia’aua who came on for Hunt at the 50-minute mark and directed the side well for the remainder of the match.
“The pre-season is all about ensuring your squad is ready for Round 1 of Super Rugby and this was another chance to give the young players in our squad an opportunity to test themselves, and I thought they held up really well against a side with some world-class players in it,” Graham said.
To watch a replay of the match, head to www.redsrugby.com.au.
The Reds now turn their focus to Canberra, where they will face the Brumbies in the opening round of Super Rugby on Friday 13 February.
St.George Queensland Reds 35 (Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, James Horwill 2 tries, penalty try; Karmichael Hunt 4 conversions) defeated Crusaders 12 (Luke Romano, Matt Todd tries; Dan Carter 1 conversion) at Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane.