Jaguares vs Reds: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Reds have to learn to play to the conditions; the Queensland pack is the real deal and what to do with Isaac Lucas?

Here's what we're talking about after the Reds' 43-27 loss to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, their third in succession this season.

1. You have to play to the conditions

Just as the Reds adjusted their game to face 40 degree heat in Canberra and a wet track and slippery ball at Ellis Park, so too they needed to adapt to how the game was being policed in Buenos Aires.

Referee Federico Anselmi certainly didn't favour the Reds in his rulings, with the penalty count ending at 13-3 against Queensland by fulltime.

Little heed was paid to offside play and rulings at the breakdown seemed inconsistent, with Reds captain Liam Wright paying the price when he was sent to the sin bin in what would turn out to be the turning point of the match.

Plenty could question Anselmi's rulings but there was no outright bias and the Reds needed to adjust better and more quickly than they did against the Jaguares in order for their discipline to be the factor that it was in the game.

2. The Reds' scrum is the real deal

The Reds have come up against three of the toughest packs in the competition in the opening three rounds without taking a backwards step.

Most pundits believe they took the points against the Brumbies in Canberra, while they dominated the Lions for most of the game in Johannesburg before taking it to a Jaguares pack stacked with internationals.

Taniela Tupou's work at tighthead helped create space for Chris Feauai-Sautia's opening try, while the Reds were quick to opt for a scrum inside the Jaguares' 22 in the third quarter that almost led to a try.

Harry Wilson has been one of the Reds' best in the opening weeks but he will lament not being able to control the ball at his feet as his pack marched forward, threatening a pushover try.

Front-rowers Alex Mafi, JP Smith and Tupou all made hurculean efforts, with Smith playing 61 minutes in just his third game back from surgery, while Mafi and Tupou lasted the full 80 as Queensland attempted to salvage a point in the dying stages.

3. What to do with Isaac Lucas

After starting at flyhalf in the season opener in Canberra, Lucas has played only limited minutes off the bench over the past fortnight as Brad Thorn opted to switch James O'Connor into no.10.

There's little evidence to suggest that that will change against the Sunwolves this week after O'Connor created several chances, including a neat dummy and around the corner pass for Tate McDermott's opening try.

He own surge for the line was denied, with the ball knocked from his grasp as he stretched to plant the ball behind his head and while he would be disappointed not to have notched what would have been a pivotal try, he was one of the Reds' best in attack.

O'Connor's best position may be at 12 but he may be best suited at flyhalf for Queensland after the Reds' push to turn Hamish Stewart into an inside centre starts to pay dividends.

Stewart was outstanding in defence again after a great show against the Lions and is unlikely to be pushed from his position anytime soon, likely relegating Lucas to the bench for the sort-term at least.

Thorn has a massive opinion of the 20-year-old though and the Reds will continue to support his development as a playmaker.

4. Paisami pops up at the right time

The Reds will be sweating on the results of scans of Jordan Petaia's shoulder on Tuesday, both for their own season and the young centre's wellbeing.

Petaia, who lasted just five minutes into a second game last year before suffering a Lisfranc injury to his foot that ended his Super Rugby season, injured his shoulder at training in Argentina last week suffering a partial dislocation.

While the extent of the injury is still to be determined, he is likely to be out for at least a month but the efforts of Hunter Paisami in the no.13 jersey would have lessened the Reds' pain somewhat.

Paisami only made his Super Rugby debut off the bench against the Brumbies a fortnight ago but showed how dangerous he can be against the Jaguares, making 68m from 14 carries, including two clean breaks in which he beat five defenders.

Chris Feauai-Sautia, who played at no.13 for most of last year after Petaia was injured, was kept out of the position by Paisami, pushed instead on to the wing, where he scored two tries.

Both have done enough to suggest they will be selected again against the Sunwolves next week.

5. Maul defence must improve

The Reds' general defence has picked up a notch this season and they have shown good signs in all three opening games in being able to hold attacking teams at bay for several phases.

Even when reduced to 13 men against the Lions last week, the Reds held firm.

But their efforts against the rolling maul are letting them down badly.

They have conceded tries in each of their games to a marching opposition pack and let in four from the Jaguares, with the Argentinians seemingly toying with their rivals late in the match.

It's an area of their game they've been working on but one that needs more attention, with penalties conceded due to collapsing mauls also hurting them.

The Reds lead the competition for the number of yellow cards conceded but cannot hope to make the finals if they continue to penalise themselves.