The St.George Queensland Reds have produced their best performance of the season, blitzing the Melbourne Rebels 36-20 in a thrilling nine-try Asteron Life Super Rugby clash in Melbourne tonight.
The Reds were spearheaded by a strong performance by captain James Horwill, who dominated the match in the first half to set up the victory. It was the first time this season the Reds have scored six tries in a match and it was also their first back-to-back victories of the year.
Queensland’s tries were scored by Rod Davies and Mike Harris and doubles to scrumhalf Nick Frisby and replacement winger Lachie Turner. The Rebels scored tries through Bryce Hegarty, Luke Burgess and Mitch Inman.
Reds head coach Richard Graham credited his team’s comprehensive first-half performance with setting up the win.
“I thought the boys started very strongly. Even with the early disruptions and a strong wind against us, I felt we were disciplined to our game plan and it delivered results,” Graham said.
“The forwards laid a strong foundation with some excellent mauling and our 9 and 10 were able to capitalise on that. Both of them underplayed their hands early and steered the team around the field well. Just as pleasing was the manner in which the players outside them gave them options.
“Our set piece has been good all year and tonight the pack continued on from where they left off before the Test window. Our forwards had clear ascendancy and we scored a couple of our tries on the back of their good work.
“It was brilliant to see the backline heavily involved in all aspects of our game. They created some very good opportunities and also finished off others in good style.
“We said we wanted to finish the year with three very good performances. We’ve got one out of the way tonight with a very good win against a Rebels side that has beaten every other Aussie team at AAMI Park. We need to continue to work hard next week and close out our season with some positive results.”
It was a chilly 13 degrees at kick off with the Reds running in to a strong breeze in the first half.
The Rebels started strongly but the Reds showed their determination with Anthony Fainga’a rushing up to pull off a strong tackle on Rebels lock Luke Jones in the first minute.
Injury struck in the fifth minute with winger Dom Shipperley carried off after suffering a fracture-dislocation of his ankle.
Graham expressed the entire team’s disappointment at seeing Shipperley forced from the field.
“The entire staff and playing squad are deeply disappointed to see Dom end his Reds career in that fashion. He has a lot of close mates in the squad and it was a dreadful way to close this chapter on his time at Ballymore. He is in exceptional care and we will do everything we can to assist with his recovery,” Graham said.
Turner was brought on as a replacement on to the left wing and quickly combined with Davies to sprint away down the touchline to score the game’s opening try. Harris converted to put the Reds out 7-0.
Jason Woodward landed a penalty goal to bring it back to 7-3 on 13 minutes.
A minute later Turner was yellow carded for tackling Rebels flyhalf Hegarty in the air to complete a very busy 10 minutes for the winger.
The Reds were down to 14 men and there was further disruption on 20 minutes with Anthony Fainga’a hobbling off bringing on 20-year-old Extended Playing Squad member Samuela Kerevi.
The Reds continued to dominate, even though they were a player down, and on 22 minutes Harris had a chance to make it 10-3 but the strong breeze pushed his penalty attempt on to the upright.
On 23 minutes however Harris finished off a superb try. A perfectly weighted grubber from Ben Tapuai was collected by Davies who unselfishly popped the ball up to the Reds fullback. Harris was again unsuccessful with the conversion in the tricky conditions but the Reds led 12-3.
Serevi then showed he was right at home at this level, winning a great turnover on 28 minutes.
Inman was then yellow carded on 28 minutes for tackling the man without the ball and now with the man advantage the Reds poured onto attack.
First Greg Holmes was held up from a lineout drive but two lineouts later the big prop turned provider. He peeled off a driving maul and popped a superb ball up to scrumhalf Frisby who dove over.
The Rebels almost hit back immediately when Sean McMahon charged down a clearing kick but superb defence from Horwill just stopped Woodward from touching down.
The Reds continued to attack and good work from Ben Lucas, Harris, Davies and Turner saw Queensland win another penalty in the Rebels 22.
Again they set up the lineout drive and once again it was Holmes, peeling off and setting up a second try to Frisby in the left hand corner. It was the Reds’ fourth try, claiming the bonus point before half time, and they went to the break leading 22-3.
The Reds started the second half exactly as they had finished the first with a sustained attack on the Rebels line finished off with a long pass from Harris putting Turner over for his second try. Harris converted to make it 29-3.
Rebels’ replacement hooker Shota Horie then showed a good turn of pace to set up an unconverted try to Luke Burgess on 52 minutes. And five minutes later Hegarty chased up a kick to touch down to make it 29-13.
Davies looked like he’d sewn the game up when he snared an intercept and raced away on 65 minutes but the pacey winger was called back for being offside.
The Rebels continued to attack but were held at bay by strong Reds’ defence and “Rocket” Rod had his try on 70 minutes after he stepped his way through from 30 metres out. Harris’ conversion made it 36-13.
Melbourne got a late consolation try through Inman, two minutes after the siren.
The Reds’ next match is another Australian derby against the Western Force in Perth, next Saturday night, as they look to continue their strong finish to the season.
ASTERON LIFE SUPER RUGBY
Full Time Result
St.George Queensland Reds 36 (Nick Frisby 2, Lachie Turner 2, Rod Davies, Mike Harris tries; Harris 3 conversions) defeated Melbourne Rebels 20 (Bryce Hegarty, Luke Burgess and Mitch Inman tries; Jason Woodward conversion, penalty) at AAMI Park, Melbourne. (Half time: Reds 22 Rebels 3) (Referee: Angus Gardner [AUS]]
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