Queensland Reds co-interim coach Matt O’Connor says his side showed it was ready to win on Saturday night.
The Reds claimed their first victory of 2016 against defending champions, the Highlanders, hanging on after a 22-point lead became just one.
In similar situations against the Rebels and the Blues, the Reds ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, a sign O’Connor said meant they might not have been ready.
“A couple of weeks ago we thought it was probably too soon for us to win,” he said.
“The work they’ve put in has paid dividends.
“(The first half) was certainly the best 40 minutes we’ve played this year and it gives us a chance to build on that.
“It’s one win, against a very good side admittedly, but we’ve got huge growth in front of us.”
Edge of the seat stuff at the end. So happy for the boys to get the win. Monkey off the back & some confidence into african tour @Reds_Rugby— Kane Douglas (@_kanedoug) April 9, 2016
Confidence showed through the Reds side in small things, like Samu Kerevi taking off and evading defenders or flyhalf Jake McIntyre opting to take a drop goal when the opportunity arose early on in the game.
It’s an action O’Connor said epitomised the growing improvement of the Queensland team.
“We’ve kept the group buoyant, they’ve been saying all the right things and making a conscious effort to improve,” he said.
“That (drop goal) was a perfect example of it tonight.
“He took the opportunity and was steering the team around and giving them the direction they need.”
“Where this group has come from, the boys really do deserve this moment."
James Slipper was back as run-on captain for the first time and the returned skipper said the side deserved to finally crack the winners’ circle.
“Where this group has come from, the boys really do deserve this moment,” he said.
“They’ve been working hard all year and it’s reflective of the improvement we’ve made over the last month.
“We’ve been trending in the right way.”
Kerevi’s scintillating opening half was a stanza that reminded observers of his enormous potential, something Slipper said the centre simply had to harness.
“We all knew he had the potential,” he said.
“He’s a big ball carrier, he's pretty dominant, he trains hard.
“(He’s got) all the attributes to be a great centre in the future.
“What we saw tonight was something he can definitely bring week to week .it’s up to Samu to push himself now and make that a consistent effort He’s Definitely got the potential.”
The Reds leave on a tour for South Africa this week, their first international trip of the season.