Super Rugby report card: Queensland Reds

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

There was so much hype about this Reds list ahead of season 2017.

George Smith, Quade Cooper, Stephen Moore and Scott Higginbotham headlined a star studded offseason recruitment drive but for all the glitz and glamour, the Reds finished the year just half a win in front of their 2016 total.

It was a season full of could have, should have and would have for the Queenslanders, who will rue some late game fades that cost them a run at the Australian Conference crown.

High Point

In a season filled with constant disappointment, the last gasp win against the Brumbies a fortnight ago would have stopped some Reds fans flushing their memberships down the toilet.

It was a pretty poor match for 60 minutes but the Reds have always struggled against the Australian Conference champs and to turn the game around like they did will provide some hope for 2018.

The other three wins this season - against the Sharks, Kings and Rebels - were nothing special, though the Sharks are playing finals football on Saturday night.

Low Point

Reds fans were repeatedly disappointed in 2017. Photo: Getty ImagesThere are a few moments which qualify here.

The late losses to the Crusaders and Waratahs were heartbreaking but it's the no shows which were particularly dire viewing.

The 44-14 loss to the Lions, in which James Slipper snapped his achilles and Quade Cooper was suspended for three weeks after a red card, required some soul searching.

The second half capitulation when they faced the Brumbies in Canberra was similarly shattering.

But the performance that hurt Reds fans most was the complete no show against the Force at Suncorp Stadium.

With their season on the line there was a distinct lack of urgency at the contest and that's enough for the Force, who get up for every Australian Conference clash.

MVP

Karmichael Hunt turned stellar Super Rugby form into a Test debut in June. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyHas to be Karmichael Hunt, who has been a force at fullback all season.

His stellar Super Rugby form saw him named at inside centre for all three June Tests and one would expect him to be a prominent part of Michael Cheika's plans for the 2019 World Cup.

After acclimatising to the speed of Super Rugby in his first month as a Red, George Smith has been superb for the remainder of the season.

He would be a close second, followed by Samu Kerevi, who hasn't played since injuring his ankle against the Blues in Samoa.

Surprise packet

Izaia Perese is a star in the making. Photo: Getty ImagesThe best part about this Reds season is the future stars they have uncovered.

Taniela Tupou has started the last three matches at tighthead prop, Lukhan Tui and Izack Rodda look to be future Wallabies in the second row, Adam Korcyzk has flourished in the backrow, James Tuttle has usurped Nick Frisby as starting halfback, Duncan Paia'aua has formed a terrific combination with the other backs at inside centre, while Izaia Perese has developed into a bonafide jet on the right wing.

Then there is Hamish Stewart, who looks a long term option at flyhalf, as well as Reece Hewat and Jayden Ngamanu, who debuted last Friday.

The majority of those players are contracted for a few years yet and there is a strong spine there.

The pick of the bunch has to be Perese, though, who came back from a superb World Rugby U20s campaign and took his game to another level.

Underachiever

Rob Simmons and Kane Douglas have fallen out of favour in 2017. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyTake your pick of Rob Simmons and Kane Douglas.

They were first choice Wallabies when Australia took on France last November but they have been edged out by two younger, more physical locks.

Simmons has been moved on but Douglas is on the books next year.

Whether he can reclaim a regular starting spot in front of Tui or Rodda remains to be seen.

What needs to change in 2018

It's far easier said than done but if they turn tight losses into tight wins, 2018 will be an entirely different story.

A Mitch Hunt penalty snatched victory for the Crusaders in round three and Bernard Foley did the same for the Tahs with two penalties in last eight minutes in round 10.

Add those two losses to woeful second half performances against the Force in round two and Brumbies in round seven and you have the recipe for a finals tilt gone begging.

Overall Grade: D+

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