Wasteful Reds fall in Suncorp slogfest

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Reds have blown countless opportunities to break their two-year duck against New Zealand sides, falling 18-15 to the Highlanders.

A Lima Sopoaga penalty in the 77th minute broke the second half deadlock and in truth, the visitors deserved the win.

They were the better side in the second half, dominating both possession and territory, only staved off by some desperate Reds defence.

Reds coach Brad Thorn, along with the 11,000 strong crowd at Suncorp Stadium, will be lucky to have any hair left at the end of this one.

Captain Scott Higginbotham summed it up best when he said, post match, that his side did "everything they could to lose" the match.

Absurd turnovers from ridiculous over kicking overshadowed any moments of brilliance - of which there were a few.

The Reds forwards and backs were not in sync for the first 35 minutes of the first term, the pack putting in some serious hard yards but the backs unable to capitalise on their hard work.

Izack Rodda, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou and George Smith had Queensland rolling over the gain line through tight, powerful carries just a metre away from Ben Lucas at the breakdown but the attack wasn’t allowed to develop further than that on two fronts.

The first problem was the ridiculous box kicking from Lucas - one no more than 25 metres out from the Highlanders line - which had Queensland fans baying for blood.

The other was a tendency to turn the ball over when Lucas did get the ball in the hands of Jono Lance - pushed passes and a pair of overthrown lineouts from Paenga-Amosa not helping the cause.

It was Paenga-Amosa’s second overthrow which handed the Highlanders their first serious chance in Queensland’s 22 and they threw caution to the wind, turning down a free three points for an offside penalty and electing to pack a scrum.

They say fortune favours the brave and after a rock solid scrum, a blindside pass from Kayne Hammington to Tevita Li set the latter up in a one-on-one with Izaia Perese, the Reds winger unable to hold on as Li dived over in the corner.

Resorting to pick and drives was the solution Queensland came up with in the aftermath of Li’s try and from the next scrum, momentum changed.

Taniela Tupou forced two penalties on the Highlanders’ feed, the first resulting in a missed shot at goal from Lance but the second providing a more fitting reward, Paenga-Amosa falling over the line off the back of a strong rolling maul with two minutes to play in the first term.

They had looked out of sync for 35 minutes but took a 10-8 lead into the sheds and when play resumed, they picked up where they left off.Ben Lucas struggled through the first half. Photo: Getty ImagesDuncan Paia’aua broke the line from 70 out and popped the ball to Paenga-Amosa, who found Tupou, who threw an incredible pass cutout pass to Perese, who flung the ball inside where the ball went to ground.

No less than 20 phases of forward slog through the middle third of the field later, a sublime Lance-Kerevi switch put the centre through, a perfectly timed pop pass putting Hamish Stewart through the tiniest of holes to score an outstanding try.

The Highlanders kicked things up a notch trailing 15-8, heading straight into the Queensland red zone for the next 10 minutes.

Desperate defence kept the visitors at bay but the Highlanders had brought their All Blacks off the pine by this point and a well orchestrated Aaron Smith and Lima Sopoaga attacking set put Liam Squire through a hole, with only Moses Sorovi standing in his way.

The blindside flanker predictably crashed over the top and dotted down, Sopoaga's conversion levelling things up with 20 to play.

Try savers from the Reds followed.

One from Kerevi, another from Lance, as Queensland clung on for dear life.

The Highlanders again threw the kitchen sink at the Reds' line as the clock ticked past the 70th minute, an enormous Angus Scott-Young shot on Sopoaga creating turnover ball from which Perese nearly broke the hearts of the visitors, breaking three tackles and running 50 metres before being bundled into touch.

Eventually, the relentless pressure turned into points.

Sopoaga slotted a penalty from 25 out, directly in front, signalling an end to Queensland's already slim finals hopes.


Reds 15

Tries: Paenga-Amosa, Stewart

Cons: Lance

Pens: Lance

Highlanders 18

Tries: Li, Squire

Cons: Sopoaga

Pens: Sopoaga 2