Reds coach Brad Thorn has labelled Queensland’s 37-16 loss to NSW its most disappointing of the season.
Thorn’s young charges faded away late for the second week in a row, after a 45-21 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra a week ago.
Though they showed some second-half fight, Thorn ranked this defeat as the side’s worst in 2018.
“Probably tonight was probably our most disappointing game of the year,” he said.
“I thought we were disappointing, I thought we were poor.
Thorn said he felt his team had lost some of its energy since returning from a trip to South Africa and Argentina, where they beat the Jaguares before falling to the Stormers in Cape Town.
“The first four games we were really bringing it right to the last minute," he said.
“The last game of the tour of the tour, in Cape Town, we got beaten but we were right in it competing every play, giving ourselves every chance.
“That's fine, but the last two games, especially tonight, just that energy or something doesn't seem to be quite there.”
Those kinds of violent ups and downs tend to follow along with teams stacked with youth, but Thorn doesn’t appear to be wavering on any of his preseason promises to keep the faith with the next generation.
Despite some holes where experience once was, Thorn reaffirmed his belief that Quade Cooper was not the solution for Queensland, and neither was Karmichael Hunt.
Cooper has been in super form for Souths in Queensland Premier Rugby, but his chances of a Reds return are all but over.
"Quade's been playing club rugby, he's been playing well but we've just been working with the guys we've got there and for me, the last, especially tonight, our whole team performance is more what I'm talking about," Thorn said.
"Like I said at the start of the season, we're going in a different direction (to Quade)."
Hunt’s situation is slightly different to Cooper’s, with the fullback free to play despite a suspension earlier this season over police charges, but he's not playing or training with the Reds or even in club rugby, believed to be looking for an overseas move.
“He hasn't been in, he's not playing club rugby at the moment. That doesn't look to be happening,” Thorn said.
The Reds should welcome utility Ben Lucas and prop Taniela Tupou back into the side to face the Chiefs next week, their first home match since round four, while captain Scott Higginbotham (calf) looks like missing out.
The Reds host the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.