The Queensland Reds grabbed a 23-21 win over the Melbourne Rebels with all the drama crammed into the final 35 minutes at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night in Round Two of Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU.
1 CODE-HOPPER VUNIVALU
New code recruit Suliasi Vunivalu nearly pulled off a miracle with his first touch in rugby.
He chased a long James O’Connor kick-off with all the speed he was known for with the Melbourne Storm. Rebels halfback Joe Powell dawdled just a bit waiting for the ball to roll over the deadball line. In an instant, winger Vunivalu was diving to get a hand on the ball and Powell had to quickly toe it the extra centimetre to save the day.
Vunivalu had the crowd of 10,543 roaring by claiming the try. He’ll get his chance to score plenty. He looked at ease in his 17-minute debut off the bench. He laid the ball back expertly at one point and was decisive with a cleanout even though starved of the ball.
2 TIME MACHINE
For the first 43 minutes, both teams seemed transported back to the 1970s and dreary afternoon days in England when the penalty goal was king. There had already been 20 penalties, yes 20, in that time and nine shots at penalty goal.
The Rebels led 15-6 and the crowd was still waiting for any sort of flow to the rugby to start while referee Jordan Way blew a concerto. There were 32 penalties altogether, a numbing figure.
3 SWEET REDEMPTION
Reds hooker Alex Mafi thought he’d blown the home side’s chance of victory when he lost control of the ball on the tryline in a fine Reece Hodge tackle. With time running out, he got another chance when sweeping around the back of a lineout in a well-rehearsed play.
Winger Filipo Daugunu was a good decoy on his inside and Hunter Paisami was there to take a pass on the outside. Mafi just blasted over himself for the try to tie the scores and give James O’Connor his chance at the matchwinning conversion.
4 HUGE DEFENCE
The Rebels came with a plan to disrupt and tackle the rhythm out of the Reds’ attack and they did a great job. Backrowers Brad Wilkin, with his ginger mullet, and Richard Hardwick made themselves pests at the breakdown and both forced penalties. Matt Toomua tackled young relative Jordan Petaia and jolted a turnover.
The Rebels never stopped smothering which was a credit considering they flew into Brisbane on the morning of the game. Getting winger Marika Koroibete more involved will only help the cause in attack in future games.
5 MORE FROM THOR
Top Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou still has a fair way to go to get back to his best form. He gave away a penalty within 45 seconds of the kick-off and just wasn’t his heavily-involved self before being replaced at the midway mark.
His best moment came when ushered back on to cover for red-carded prop Feao Fotuaika. His quick hands pass to Petaia down the blindside was slicker than many backs could execute the same play.
RUGBY RAVE: The week that was in Rugby