The St.George Queensland Reds have been edged out 30-20 by the Western Force in a hard fought Asteron Life Super Rugby clash in Perth tonight.
Spearheaded by a stunning run-on debut by 21-year-old Samu Kerevi, the Reds battled their way back to 20-all with 10 minutes remaining, but a late penalty and converted try saw the Force home.
The Reds’ tries were scored by Kerevi and replacement prop Albert Anae, while the Force crossed three times through Nick Cummins, Ben McCalman and Nathan Charles.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said his team’s poor start had cost them the match.
“The first 15 minutes we weren’t in the contest at all. They started at a different level of intensity whilst we stood and watched. Defensively we were passive,” Graham said.
“Added to our poor start was our lack of ball control and composure when we had created good attacking opportunities. It is extremely disappointing because we should never have put ourselves in that situation.
“We worked ourselves back into the game nicely and at 20-all we had an opportunity to kick on, however we continued to make the same mistakes. They deserved the win.
“The physical preparation and the mental preparation go hand in hand. Tonight showed if you take short cuts in either you leave yourself exposed.
“We need to regroup quickly. There’s one week left in our season and we want to finish strongly. We have everything to play for. We play our most traditional and fiercest rival in the Waratahs, we play our last game of 2014 at Suncorp Stadium and we owe it to our loyal support base. We need to demonstrate to ourselves what we are capable of and we have a number of departing players who’ll play their last game in a Reds jersey.”
Although disappointed with the outcome, Graham commended Kerevi on his input in his first start for the Reds, along with the three players that made their debut off the bench.
“I thought Samu was outstanding. He really took the opportunity he was given. He was a handful all night,” Graham said.
“It was pleasing to see Tim Buchanan, Scott Gale and Sam Johnson make their debut for Queensland off the bench tonight. All three have been with the group as part of the wider training squad since October last year and have worked hard to get this opportunity.
“None of them looked out of their depth and it’s now up to them to continue to work hard and earn more opportunities in the Reds jersey.”
The conditions were perfect for Rugby at the kick off with the temperature at a balmy 21 degrees on a dry night with little wind.
The Force trapped the Reds in their 22 early on but a good high kick from scrumhalf Nick Frisby relieved the pressure, forcing a mistake from Dane Haylett-Petty.
James Horwill, picking up from where he left off last week, then stole a lineout on the Force 22 and soon after Harris put Queensland ahead with a penalty goal, the Reds up 3-0 after 7 minutes.
But the Force hit straight back, after Cummins, tackled Rod Davies into touch from the kick off and followed up a minute later to touch down in the left hand corner. Jayden Hayward converted from the touchline to put the Force up 7-3 after 11 minutes.
Hayward landed another penalty on 14 minutes before the blockbusting Kerevi, in his first run on start for the Reds, broke the Force line and popped a pass up for Beau Robinson, but the flanker was unable to hang on.
The Force made the Reds pay immediately with a team try capped off by Ben McCalman, although Kerevi and Ben Daley did their best to try and hold the Force No.8 up, with the decision going to the TMO. Hayward converted again and after 20 minutes the Force led 17-3.
The Reds’ bench was then called into action with two blood-bin replacements: Dave McDuling on for Horwill and Tim “Bucky” Buchanan, the son of former Australian Cricket coach John Buchanan, making his debut, coming on for Robinson.
Ben Lucas then did superbly to win a turnover on the Reds’ try line as the Force looked dangerous once more, but the Queensland flyhalf was cynically kneed on the ground by Hugh McMeniman, who received a yellow card.
Rob Simmons lifted the Reds with a big tackle soon after then a bust up the centre from the busy Kerevi won a penalty in the Force 22.
The Reds kicked for touch and from the lineout they set up a maul. Frisby then popped a simple ball up to Kerevi on the blind and the 186cm, 106kg outside centre burst through a tackle to score his first Super Rugby try. Harris converted wide out on the right to make it 17-10 at the break.
Frisby went to the head bin early in the second half with young scrumhalf Scott Gale becoming the second Reds debutant on the night.
Hayward then missed a relatively straight-forward penalty attempt to put the Force further ahead on 45 minutes.
Hayward then missed another penalty attempt before landing his second penalty on 52 minutes to take the Force out to 20-10.
The Reds then attacked deep in Force territory with Kerevi again prominent. Queensland won a penalty and took a kick for touch to set up a line out close to the host’s line.
Anae, who had just come on for Daley, was the recipient of a perfectly co-ordinated rolling maul to crash over for his first try for the Reds. Harris converted and Queensland were trailing by just three points, 20-17, with an hour gone.
Ben Tapuai and Harris then combined to create a long break on 65 minutes but the final pass eluded Lachie Turner. But the Reds won another penalty two minutes later and Harris made it 20-all from directly in front.
The Force were back in front just a minute later thanks to another Hayward penalty and they were further in front when Nathan Charles sprinted away to cap another team-try on 74 minutes. Hayward’s conversion making it 30-20.
Sam Johnson came on for Kerevi in the final minutes, to become the Reds’ third debutant on the night, and although Queensland continued to attack right to the siren, they couldn’t find their way over for their third try.
The Reds now return to Brisbane where they will take on the NSW Waratahs in a block-busting finale to the Super Rugby season next Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium.
ASTERON LIFE SUPER RUGBY
Full Time Result
St.George Queensland Reds 20 (Samu Kerevi, Albert Anae tries; Mike Harris 2 penalties, 2 conversions) lost to Western Force 30 (Nick Cummins, Ben McCalman, Nathan Charles tries; Jayden Hayward 3 conversions, 3 penalties) at nib Stadium in Perth. (Half Time: Reds 10 Force 17) (Referee: Angus Gardner [AUS])
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