The Reds defended desperately all game long, producing multiple try-savers, but they couldn't stop Pasilio Tosi's game-winning try. Jordie Barrett copped a red card…
Friday evening was the last home regular-season match at Suncorp Stadium for the Queensland Reds, with a worthy opponent in Moana Pasifika, who have just joined Super Rugby this year.
For a first year-team, Moana have done a lot better than their 1-11 season win-loss ratio would suggest, with a number of other close results to good teams.
Their season was also affected by cancellations due to COVID restrictions, so they are clearly a tough opponent on the rise, which the 34-22 scoreline against the Reds duly reflected.
Moana brought to the spectacle a physical and skilful style of play, and I got to see a couple of my favourite Wallabies of recent years live again: Christian Lealiifano and Sekope Kepu.
Lealiifano’s bravery in fighting serious illness and then coming back to play professional rugby, together with his understated style of rugby, humility and decency, ranks him as one of the men I most admire.
Kepu’s toughness and no-nonsense professional standards are the reasons that the veteran is a favourite of mine.
Kepu’s status as a tighthead who was of former world 15 standard is just another reason why the Reds’ starting loosehead Harry Hoopert deserves another special mention after this game.
Kepu is the second starting Wallabies tighthead that Hoopert has packed down against this year, with Allan Alaalatoa being the first in the last Reds win against the Brumbies earlier in the season. Hoopert matched it up against the veteran for a stable scrum.
This time Hoopert didn’t have Taniela Tupou on the other side of the Reds’ scrum, so there can be no doubt that Hoopert can match up with the best in a prop’s most important job.
And in this game he scored a try, again demonstrating how good he is around the park.
If the Wallabies’ coaches aren’t taking note of Hoopert, I hope the coach of the newly constituted Australia A does, because it was through that team that Sekope Kepu became a great Wallaby.
Of course the win was bittersweet, with James O’Connor grasping his knee right in front of where I was sitting. You could almost hear the hearts of the fans sitting there thump to the floor in unison.
O’Connor tried to continue playing but had to be substituted after an excellent game, which reflected the effort he has made to make himself a more unpredictable and dangerous flyhalf this season, drawing favourable commentary from Dave Rennie.
What those who watched the game on TV would not have seen is that along with the other Reds, O’Connor stayed on the park to sign autographs for a good half hour after the match, limping from fan to fan to ensure that nobody missed out.
I was standing next to a couple of parents who were absolutely thrilled that O’Connor, who had promised their young son that he would come back to him after performing some other duty, kept his word and came back to sign the autograph.
Sadly O’Connor will not be available to play against the Crusaders this Friday in Christchurch and I don’t think I would be telling anybody anything that they don’t already know that this will mean that the Reds are even more up against it against the greatest rugby union club that ever existed.
It is a testament to the sort of man that O’Connor has become with the Reds and all Queensland Reds fans can consider ourselves so lucky to have him in our team.
In the last pre-COVID game of 2020, the Reds were in almost exactly the same situation. With a rookie flyhalf playing in Christchurch, they took the mighty Saders to a Reds loss of 24-20, which only came down to goal kicking.
That came off the back of a bad loss against the Sharks, after which the Reds appeared to take a good look at themselves and set off on the improvement in standards, which resulted in the Super Rugby AU win last year.
What this shows is that the Crusaders are not unbeatable under this circumstance if the Reds are committed and smart.
On being smart, I would ask the question whether flyhalf Lawson Creighton really needs to spend time practicing goal kicking and kicking for touch this week, when he has to prepare and play for the biggest game of his career so far?
That is not a reflection on his kicking, but there are others such as Filipo Daugunu, Hamish Stewart and Jock Campbell who can all kick goals, so why not get them up to the tee and free up Creighton’s headspace for the mammoth task on Friday?
Go Queensland! Go the Reds!