Queensland Reds have been unable to send legends James Horwill and Will Genia off with a win in their final home game, going down to a hard fought 24-3 loss against the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The match told very much the story of the Reds’ season – dominant at the scrum and lineout and with large passages of possession and territory but they just could not get over the tryline, with Genia and wing Lachie Turner both stopped inches short on multiple occasions.
For the Chiefs the try scorers were Bryce Heem, Liam Messam and Charlie Ngatai while for the Reds Quade Cooper landed a first half penalty goal.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said his team rued missed opportunities as they failed to win their final home game of the year and send their departing players off with a win.
“We missed a lot of opportunities. Our set piece decimated theirs. We were dominant in that area, but didn’t take our opportunities. It’s disappointing for the entire team. We knew a win at Suncorp Stadium was going to be the best way to send off Will (Genia) and James (Horwill), but the Chiefs scramble defence was outstanding, they stopped at least three tries which you’d expect to score nine times out of 10.”
Earlier Horwill (playing his 115th Super Rugby match) and Genia (his 114th) were given a heroes welcome on to the field, greeted by a guard of honour by junior players from around Queensland. Genia even carried his young daughter Olivia with him on to the ground in a touching farewell.
The Reds, playing in their specially created Indigenous Round jersey, designed by leading artist Stephen Hogarth, started well, dominating possession close to the Chiefs line. But spirited defence held them at bay.
The Reds pack then destroyed the Chiefs scrum, pushing them backwards from a tighthead, and earning a penalty straight in front of the posts. Cooper made no mistake to put the Reds up 3-0 after six minutes.
The Reds then won another scrum penalty to put them back on the attack and in quick succession both Lachie Turner and Genia were driven in to touch millimetres short of the line. The Chiefs survived again just two minutes later when James O’Connor was pulled down just short.
James Hanson won another penalty on 16 minutes, but Cooper this time was unsuccessful with his attempt.
The Chiefs hit back with a try to Bryce Heem on 26 minutes and a second to Liam Messam on 33 minutes, with Andrew Horrell converting both to put them up 14-3.
The Reds were given a chance to strike back immediately when Chiefs No.8 Michael Leitch was yellow carded for repeated breakdown infringements.
The Reds again won a scrum against the feed but somehow they were denied once more as the ball was knocked out of Genia’s hand as he dove over the line right on half time.
The second half started exactly as the first as the Reds dominated at scrum time and were camped on the Chiefs’ line for long periods but the home team could just not get across.
The Chiefs survived without conceding a point during Leitch’s absence and his return coincided with a long range penalty to Horrell to make it 17-3 to the visitors on 51 minutes.
O’Connor saved a try on 54 minutes and soon after another superb scrum from the Reds pack relieved some Chiefs’ pressure.
Indigenous program ambassador Saia Fainga’a came on in the 58th minute taking the place of James Hanson who was also playing his last game for the Reds at Suncorp. Hanson receiving a rousing applause from the Queensland faithful.
Horrell missed a penalty on 65 minutes as Japan-international No.8 Hendrik Tui came on for Jake Schatz to make his long-awaited Reds debut.
Genia made a superb try-saving tackle a minute later but it was only a quick respite with Charlie Ngatai going over from the ensuing lineout, with Horrell adding the extras.
On 73 minutes a superb break saw Genia go close again but once more the Chiefs stopped him inches short, as they did dragging Turner down a metre out not once but twice in the next five minutes.
A try to Ngatai after the siren was ruled out by the TMO to leave the score at 24-3.
There were emotional scenes after the final whistle as presentations were made to Genia and Horwill, who will be greatly missed.
The Reds now complete the season with a trip to Sydney next Saturday night to play old foe, NSW.
ST.GEORGE QUEENSLANDS RED 3 (Quade Cooper penalty goal) lost to CHIEFS 24 (Bryce Heem, Liam Messam and Charlie Ngatai; Andrew Horrell 3 conversions, penalty) at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. (HALF TIME: Reds 3 Chiefs 14) (Referee: Mike Fraser [NZL]).