Reds vs Highlanders: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Reds suffered an agonising 36-31 loss to the Highlanders to start their Super Rugby campaign for 2019.

Here's what we're talking about after the match.

1. Izack Rodda's courage


Courage is an overused word in modern sport, but Rodda's effort to line up for the Reds two days after the death of his father shows how much the club means to the Wallabies lock.

Rodda reportedly insisted on playing and his efforts galvanised an already tight Reds squad.

He was no passenger either, scoring a second-half try that helped the Reds claw back within five points of the Highlanders in the second half just as it seemed the game was getting out of their reach.

He drove his teammates and was distraught after Dillon Hunt managed to scoot over in the 74th minute to seal the win for the home side.

2. Feao Fotuaika's magnificent debut

Fotuaika was already one of the feel-good stories of the off-season, having shed more than 16kg just to win a contract with the Reds.

Since making the squad, the Brisbane NRC standout has grabbed every opportunity and was outstanding in his first game in the maroon jersey.

It was Fotuaika's run that helped the Reds earn a penalty that Bryce Hegarty converted into points early in the match and his 57th-minute try - on the back of Rodda's inspirational effort - levelled the scores, with Hegarty's conversion putting the Reds ahead.

Fotuaika has also slotted comfortably into an already strong Reds front row, with his scrummaging efforts likely to seal his starting spot.

3. Jordan Petaia's all class

There were plenty of question marks over the centre combination to be used by Brad Thorn heading into the first match of the season, with the Reds looking likely to use Samu Kerevi and Chris Feauai-Sautia as twin battering rams after trialling the pair together in a practice match against the Chiefs.

But Petaia stamped himself as a future international centre while wearing the 13 for Queensland, causing all sorts of problems for the Highlanders from the kick-off.

While his skill and stepping ability tied defenders in knots, it was his own defensive efforts that would have impressed the Reds as much as any run he made, with the teen proving he will be no liability if left in the midfield.

Kerevi has backed himself to continue to improve as a ball player and also showed some silky skills in an exciting preview to the pair's future.

4. Are the defensive woes a thing of the past?


Defence was a huge issue for the Reds last season, with the team leaking a massive 501 points and conceding 66 tries.

The addition of former Brisbane Broncos and Brumbies premiership winner Peter Ryan is already paying dividends, in attitude as much as anything.

While Queensland will be filthy with letting Dillon Hunt cross for the matchwinner in the 74th minute, the Highlanders looked to be over several phases earlier and it was only a try-saver from Alex Mafi and a seemingly impenetrable wall on their line that pushed them so wide.

There were lapses but it was a marked improvement in sustained intensity that Ryan and Brad Thorn will be keen to build on.

5. Kicking desperately needs to improve

For all their strong points, the Reds' kicking in general play was largely diabolical.

Twice in the first half, Chris Feauai-Sautia grubbered from deep inside his own half, with waiting Highlanders gleefully accepting the ball and launching counter-attacks that resulted in points.

He was far from the only culprit though and the Reds will need to be much better with both their touch finders and tactical kicks if they are to improve on last season's six wins.