The Queensland Reds showed some promising signs in Friday night’s trial game against their old foe the NSW Waratahs, prevailing 28-19 in Dalby.
The opening stanza had the Waratahs on the attack, with poor discipline keeping NSW parked up on their try line, until prop Tom Robertson showed good body height and burrowed over for a try. A scrappy game from both sides in the damp and humid conditions had both teams showing some attacking form, only to cough it up and being unable to finish off some strong breaks.
The Waratahs’ back line threatened at times in broken play, with Karmichael Hunt making a strong run and getting into space, but a strong cover tackle from Henry Speight saw a turnover via a knock on. The Reds went on the attack, and eventually Reds number eight Henry Wilson peeled off the back of a strong scrum by the Reds five metres out.
Kurtley Beale showed why some NSW fans have trepidation with him at the back, with a dropped ball that led to a break in play where Taniela Tupou showed fantastic skills in offloading in a break of play. The ball skills from the big man are a pleasure to watch.
Jordan Petaia had a quiet game, but did show glimpses of why Reds fans will be excited to see him on the park more this year, with some strong breaks and stronger defence. Henry Speight was welcomed back with some cracking runs and offloads, plus some strong work over the ball in rucks, leading to a penalty and turnover.
Brad Thorn will have a headache when it comes to picking his outside backs, with Speight and Jack Campbell showing form this week, and Filipo Daugunu being strong last week. Speight showed his determination to get involved, at one point packing in the side of the scrum while the Reds were a man down.
For the Waratahs, Hunt and Beale looked dangerous when they did get the ball in hand, but struggled to finish off any strong plays, and coach Rob Penney will be hoping that his forwards can dominate more in order to unleash the full potential of his back line.
The end of the half finished with Reds second-rower Angus Blyth being sent off for a high tackle, which while fair, the tall lock didn’t look like he went in with any malice. Halves Tate McDermott and Isaac Lucas weren’t as dominant as last week, but both were still dangerous, with McDermott taking sniping runs to keep the NSW defence guessing, and Lucas distributing well, but also a danger when he took on the line.
The half finished with the Waratahs failing to take advantage of their numerical upper hand, and the Reds looking the more dangerous of the two with their forward pack particularly dominating. Handling errors from NSW stopped them from converting any pressure into points.
Queensland started the first half strong, with reserve halfback Moses Sorovi adding some pep and go forward, with some quicker service. Brad Thorn has a great tag team with his current scrum halves, both playing different games and playing to their strengths.
The Reds opened the scoring in the second stanza, after replacement Hunter Paisami barnstormed his way through the defence, and Jock Campbell was rewarded for his earlier solo efforts by backing up with another meat pie for the Reds.
Throughout the match, both teams were kicking and trying some short kicks, with the Reds winning the battle of both long and short kicking. Again, Thorn is well serviced by having options in the backs, with James O’Connor, Lucas and McDermott all having the ability to get the Reds of trouble.
Next to score was Reds captain Liam Wright, scoring off a messy but effective driving maul. Both teams then had some good back and forth, until a turnover from Brandon Paenga-Amosa on halfway led to Sam Wallis finding some space to put Moses Sorovi over for another try. For two weeks in a row, the Reds were serviced well in the goal-kicking department, with Bryce Hegarty striking his conversion, and Campbell knocking over all three of his attempts.
The Reds then held the Tahs out for an extended period with some strong defence, until a little show and go from the back of a scrum by flyhalf Will Harrison let him sneak through and put the Tahs back in the hunt. Shortly after replacement Sam Wallis was yellow carded for the Reds for playing the ball off the ground, and this time NSW were able to capilitise on having an extra man, with Mark Nawaqanitawase crossing the line from the wing via a rolling maul where a few of the Reds piggies got lost after NSW split the maul.
The Reds finished the game the eventual winners in a strong showing, especially up front, which allowed the backs to do their thing. Brad Thorn’s biggest headaches will be picking his best team, with many youngsters putting their hand up, but also getting the team to focus on discipline. Quality teams will show better execution then the Tahs did in Dalby.
Rob Penney will be sweating on flyhalf Mack Mason after a strong showing in both pre-season games, having limped off with a groin injury. He will also be wondering how to motivate the men up front to show more grit after being bullied by the Reds pack.
Referee Nic Berry must also be commended or a free flowing game, allowing both sides a chance to play, and showing consideration to the amount of subs, but also putting his foot down when required.
Bring on Super Rugby 2020!