Veteran George Smith could not have wished for a better way to cap his 150th super rugby appearance, scoring a try and helping the Queensland Reds end a six-match losing streak as they overran the Kings at Suncorp Stadium.
The Reds beat their South African opponents 47-34 for their second win of the season, giving them some form to take in to the second half of the campaign after next week’s bye.
Smith forced three early turnovers to give the Reds momentum in the first half, but they were pegged back to 14-10 at the interval.
The veteran burst through early in the second half to lift his side to a comfortable lead before a late Kings fightback briefly made life nervous for the 11,336 Reds fans.
“I enjoyed that, we had the right intention from the first kick,” Smith said.
“A number of points were left out there in first half.
“This gives us confidence in our attack, if we keep the ball in hand we’re able to score tries.
“We’ve just got to put the complete performance together.”
Eto Nabuli, Karmichael Hunt and Izaia Perese scored two tries each for the Reds while Makazole Mapimpi (two), Chris Cloete, Louis Schreuder, and Masixole Bande went over for the Kings.
The Reds took the lead after six minutes when, after winning a scrum against the feed, the ball was fed to Nabuli to dive over in the corner.
The Kings replied with a try to Cloete before Hunt dived over from close range to restore the Reds’ lead 11 minutes before the break.
Reds coach Nick Stiles was an unhappy man at the interval, though, due to the Reds spurning numerous chances with sloppy handling leading to 16 turnovers.
“It was a team issue we needed to hold onto the ball in the carry,” Stiles said.
“We sat down as a group and I spoke about being disciplined and patient with the ball in hand.”
Three minutes after the restart, Stiles had his response when milestone man Smith received a lineout from Rob Simmons and cut through the Kings defence before exchanging passes with Scott Higginbotham to get over the line at the second attempt.
Five minutes later, Hendrik Tui bundled over Penxe before passing the ball to Nabuli who raced over untouched for a try.
Schreuder then dived over from close range for the Kings in the 51st minute but it was a brief respite as Reds fullback Hunt collected Cooper’s kick three minutes later and raced under the posts for another five pointer.
Cooper’s successful conversion saw him break the 800-point mark in Super Rugby, making him the third Australian to do so after Stirling Mortlock and Matt Burke.
Perese scored his first try in Super Rugby when Hunt took on James Tuttle’s wide pass and drew the last man before feeding the young winger.
Three minutes later Perese had his second after Hunt collected Cooper’s cross-field penalty from inside his own 22 and ran to the halfway line before feeding the Reds’ No.14 to run untouched under the posts.
This was not the end of the scoring as three tries in eight minutes made the scoreline respectable for the visitors.
The Kings remain rooted to the bottom of the Africa 2 standings with just one win from seven games.