The St.George Queensland Reds have gone down 23-5 to the NSW Waratahs, in a ferocious Asteron Life Super Rugby clash at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
Lock Marco Kotze scored a late try for the Reds while NSW scored tries through Bernard Foley and Peter Betham. Foley landed two conversions and three penalty goals, as the Waratahs retained the Bob Templeton Cup.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said: “There were probably three areas of the game we were particularly disappointed with – we were under a bit of pressure early in the scrum, we didn’t hold on to the ball for long enough to do anything with it and we missed too many one-on-one tackles,” Graham said.
“The handling of both sides was average and the game never reached the levels we wanted it to. It certainly wasn’t what you want to see in a match of this magnitude.
“The last few minutes of the first half presented probably our best opportunity in that period. It would have been nice to get to half time around the 13–7 mark but we couldn’t apply pressure consistently.”
The Reds were disrupted by several late changes with James Horwill ruled out with back spasms, and Kotze coming into the starting line-up.
There was also changes in the backline with James O’Connor going to fullback, Nick Frisby coming off the bench into flyhalf, Lachie Turner moving onto the wing, Chris Feauai-Sautia to outside centre and Ben Tapuai to the bench.
“Over the past few weeks we have struggled with consistency of selection due to injuries, particularly in the back line. Over the last four rounds Will Genia and Chris Kuridrani have been the only constants in our back line. I made a conscious decision to select a back line tonight that I thought we could run with for the next few weeks until Quade and a few others returned,” Graham said.
“Nick Frisby did well given the circumstances. The game had no flow to it and as a consequence he found himself having to make things happen. He’ll undoubtedly be a lot better for the experience as we move forward.”
It was a humid 26% at kick-off and the Tahs poured on the pressure early with O’Connor pulling off a crucial ankle tap to bring down a tryline-bound Michael Hooper.
The Reds then won a relieving scrum penalty, with 23-year-old Sam Talakai again impressive.
Another scrum penalty, this time to NSW, saw Foley knock over a long range penalty to make it 3-0 after 12 minutes.
Jake Schatz was then wrong-footed resulting in a high tackle on Foley, but the NSW flyhalf missed the penalty attempt from a similar position.
The Waratahs were moving the ball quickly from touchline to touchline, trying to stretch the Reds but Chris Kuridrani pulled off a huge tackle on Jacques Potgieter to stop a dangerous attack outwide.
Adam Thomson also did well to steal a NSW lineout ball, deep in Reds territory. Thomson was then contentiously penalised for a breakdown offence on 23 minutes that saw Foley make it 6-0 from close range.
The Reds had defended courageously almost non-stop for the first quarter with the possession at that stage going 75%-25% to NSW and the territory 85%-15% also to the visitors.
Finally the weight of possession told on 25 minutes and NSW scored a long-range try to Foley, which he converted to make it 13-0.
A huge tackle from Feauai-Sautia on Kurtley Beale in the 32nd minute then won the Reds a penalty but O’Connor’s long range shot missed the mark.
The Reds then won another penalty to set up an attacking line out but Saia Fainga’a’s lineout throw was askew. Will Genia then knocked on a quick tap with opportunity beckoning.
Finally the Reds had a great attacking position from a lineout in the final minute of the half. They won a penalty but O’Connor again pulled it wide, this time from the left.
The second half got off to a frenetic start with both teams attacking, before Reds captain James Slipper was forced from the field due to injury.
This brought Ben Daley on wearing his latest coloured headgear for his ‘Be Great, Do Good’ campaign, this time supporting Women’s Legal Services.
Genia did well to steal a scrum-ball but another mistake coughed the ball up to NSW who won another penalty, converted by Foley to make it 16-0 on 50 minutes.
Tapuai then came on for Anthony Fainga’a as the Reds looked for some go-forward in the mid-field.
Liam Gill was doing his utmost to spark the Reds into life and he was prominent as Queensland made some good progress from a rolling maul on 55 minutes.
The Reds poured on the pressure from the next lineout with NSW hooker Tatafu Polotau-Nau yellow carded for dangerous play.
With 20 minutes remaining James Hanson came on for Saia Fainga’a and he immediately won a turnover penalty to give the Reds a great attacking opportunity but the promising movement broke down out wide.
Hanson then made another strong 40-metre charge down the right touchline and the ball came left to O’Connor who carried the move on. But the ball was turned over in the slippery conditions and Peter Betham broke away to score a long range try for NSW, converted by Foley to make it 23-0.
Lachie Turner was hit in a big tackle by Dave Dennis as the clock wound down which saw him leave the field on a stretcher as a precautionary measure, with Campbell Magnay coming on.
NSW looked like scoring another late try but a superb turnover penalty by replacement Curtis Browning held them at bay.
Frisby then put Hanson and Browning away on a long break down the left but again NSW scrambled.
But the Reds won a penalty in the final minute and Frisby set up the five-metre lineout. Gill took it on before Genia found Kotze who dove over for a well-worked try; O’Connor missing the conversion.
The Reds must now re-group before facing the table topping Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium next Saturday night.
“The benefit we have is we’re back at Suncorp Stadium next weekend to play the Brumbies and we’re all motivated to bounce back from this and put in a display everyone can be proud of – players, organisation, members and supporters.”
ASTERON LIFE SUPER RUGBY
ST GEORGE QUEENSLAND REDS 5 (Marco Kotze try) lost to NSW WARATAHS 23 (Bernard Foley, Peter Betham tries; Foley 2 conversions, 3 penalty goals) at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. (HALF TIME: Reds 0 NSW 13) (Referee: Glen Jackson [NZL])