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REACTION: 'Let the game flow'- Reds outlast Brumbies as card frenzy steals the show to leave fans and players fuming

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2nd April, 2022
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If there is one Super Rugby side built to cope with the card frenzy cutting through the competition at the moment, it would have to be the Reds.

Reduced to 14 men midway through the first half after Tuaina Tualima was red-carded for an ugly cleanout on James Slipper, and then again in the final minutes after Taniela Tupou earned a yellow for being offside at the ruck, the Queensland side would dig deep as they have all year, refusing to allow the Brumbies a sniff of a try that would have swung the match, and even scoring one themselves through Fraser McReight.

In contrast, the Brumbies, victims of the crackdown themselves when Rob Valetini and Cam Clark controversially both saw yellow one after another to leave them a man down for most of the second half, couldn’t hold out. James O’Connor linked with Filipo Daugunu in the 68th minute to seal a 21-7 victory, and extend the Reds’ recent dominance at Suncorp Stadium over fellow Australian sides.

Even then, it could have been far more comfortable, the Reds butchering several gilt-edged chances during the match, none worse than a knock on which robbed Daugunu of a near-certain try just minutes before making amends.

But having lost co-captain Liam Wright to an ankle injury in the warm-up to join a host of key players ruled out through injury, this was a gutsy win by the Reds, and enough to leave acting skipper Tate McDermott full of pride.

“The strength in this group’s our depth, it’s something ‘Thorny’ and Sam Cordingley have been building over the years, and I’m so proud to be a Queenslander, particularly tonight,” he told Stan Sport after the match.

“Regardless of who we pull in, and everyone says this, they do their job. It’s evident tonight – poor old Tuaina got a red, which is unfortunate, but like we’ve said, we just get by.

“We just fight, we keep going, regardless of who we have on the paddock they do their job and they make Queensland proud.”

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Summing up the Reds’ unmatched desperation was a brutal hit from Hunter Paisami on Nic White late in the match, that left the Brumbies veteran gasping for air.

But the major story of the night was the continued crackdown, which saw four cards handed out by Angus Gardner, most of them sparking debate.

Tualima’s red card was justified, having made head contact on Slipper, but Valetini’s for a high hit on McDermott received widespread condemnation, with former great Tim Horan adamant it should have been a penalty only, given it wasn’t clear whether the Brumby had even touched the head.

The increasingly harsh laws surrounding head contact have resulted in a spate of cards this season, which only escalated on Saturday night – and while best man afield McReight acknowledged the players need to take some responsibility, he also maintained the crackdown is bad for the game and the fans.

“Obviously there is a crackdown at the moment, but as players, we probably have to do better,” McReight told Stan Sport.

“We have to learn and get used to those new rules.

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“Moving forward, I’d personally like to see the game flow a bit more and be a bit more entertaining for the fans. I know if I was a watcher I’d like to see the game flow a bit more, but I think as players we can take a big part to improve that.”

Fraser McReight of the Reds scores a try.

Fraser McReight of the Reds scores a try. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

However, McReight was full of praise for his fellow Reds, saying the key to victory was their desire to hit the second half full of steam despite being a player down.

“We came out of the sheds at half time really wanting to win the first 10-15 minutes and gain momentum. I think we did that through some great execution,” he said.

“We’re pretty used to getting cards by now, we actually say we play better with 14 or 13 men, which if you can look back in the past couple of weeks we probably have done.

“We’re pretty comfortable in that position, so we just knew we had to stick to our structures, our gameplans. We have really smart players who can adapt on the go, and I think we did that.”

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Less impressed with the effort was coach Brad Thorn, who urged his team to keep improving before the true test of their season lies against New Zealand teams when border restrictions finally enable travel.

“A lot of opportunities were left out there, so there’s a bit of frustration to be honest,” Thorn said after the match.

“I love what the guys brought, but that’s what’s expected as well. I’m seeking perfection on stuff.

“This competition isn’t AU this year, it’s Trans-Tasman. There’s Kiwi teams to face soon, and we want to compete. We’ll continue to grow – maybe I’m just a bit of a grumpy arse!”

Having struggled mightily in last season’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition after claiming the Australian leg of the competition, Horan knows that good form against the other Aussie sides doesn’t necessarily bode well on the next step up.

But speaking on Stan Sport, Justin Harrison maintained the Reds could prove a real challenge to any New Zealand outfit they come across.

“Last year, we saw the Queensland Reds win the competition, then disappointingly not take that form into the Trans-Tasman crossover,” Harrison said.

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“Brad Thorn’s referencing, ‘Kiwi sides are coming, we need to be better, we need to keep growing’. They’re a year wiser, they’re a year smarter, they’ve got a spine now, they’ve got some rockstar players in that squad…”

An upcoming bye gives the Reds the perfect chance to rest, recuperate and welcome some returning players back into the fold, ahead of the tough road to come.

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