Highlanders vs Reds: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Reds finished their 2017 campaign with a loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.

What are we talking about after that final round clash?

1. Ultimate scoreboard not easy reading

For all the optimism the Reds brought into 2017, they have finished just half a game better than the same time in 2016. Queensland scored four wins this season, compared to three and a draw last year, despite the big names they lured to the club. It would have been almost impossible to predict the cliff-diving form of some of their more etablished players, but the leeway won’t be anywhere near so lax in 2018.

2. All up to the Brumbies now

The Reds went down to the HIghlanders on Friday night. Photo: Getty ImagesIt’s official - only the Brumbies can help Australia avoid a trans-Tasman whitewash this Super Rugby season. The Reds’ loss to the Highlanders was Australia’s 2017 losing streak to 24 matches this season, with just the Brumbies vs Chiefs left in the regular season. The Brumbies will have two cracks at breaking the drought, set to host a quarter-final next weekend

3. Hunt injury a Wallaby worry.

The Reds have no more games left but the Wallabies will be sweating on the fitness of Karmichael Hunt as the Bledisloe Cup nears. Hunt exited the Highlanders clash 15 minutes in, with a leg injury, with little clarity on the severity or nature of that ailment. The return of Kurtley Beale might ease the Wallabies coaches’ minds when it comes to a replacement, but Hunt will be hoping its nothing serious after looking to have finally shaken an injury curse.

4. Stiff Reds need more flexibility

There were interesting comments by former All Black and now Sky commentator Andrew Mehrtens during the Reds-Highlanders match. “An entire generation of Australian players has come through more used to structured play,” he said. “They don’t have that innate ability to be reactive or adapt to what’s in front of them.” At their 2011 peak the Reds were among the most adaptable teams in Super Rugby, but Mehrtens wasn’t far off in his analysis on Friday, with the Highlanders getting the better of them in most unstructured positions.

5. Positives come from generation next

The Reds’ big-name recruits were expected to get them over the line in 2017 but it’s been their youngsters who have stepped up in the back end of the year. Caleb Timu was impressive on debut, while Izaia Perese had another exciting game on the wing. Taniela Tupou showed glimpses of the barnstorming form that made him a high school sensation and lock izack Rodda notched a try as well. Hang on to that hope, Reds fans.