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The Roar


'Brain explosion': Wallaby stars sent off as Queensland left red-faced in Moana Pasifika shocker

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12th April, 2024
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Queensland Reds have turned in an absolute shocker against Moana Pasifika, conceding TWO red cards and being beaten 17-14 with the final play of a demoralising Super Rugby defeat in New Zealand.

Tate McDermott and Fraser McReight both saw red in the second half, the Wallabies halfback sent off for what ex-All Black Jeff Wilson called a “brain explosion” and McReight for a high shot that changed the game after Queensland led with eight minutes left.

William Havili crossed for a try moments before the end, sealing the result with a conversion on the siren.

While they might take a shred of comfort from their resilience despite the double reds, this was far and away the worst display of the Les Kiss era. The Reds were, at times, a total shambles against a team that had conceded 175 points in their previous three games.

“Incredibly frustrating, a lot of errors and ill discipline from us,” said Reds co-captain Liam Wright. “There was a lot of courage and we thought we found our moment near the end. The heart of the group is there.”

The tone was set early – Seru Uru involved in three handling errors in the opening six minutes. Rookie flyhalf Harry McLaughlin-Phillips did the unforgivable – booting a freekick directly into touch – Harry Wilson dropped a short pass from McDermott and Josh Flook threw a pass ridiculously forward.


Speaking of brain explosions, that caused Wilson’s head to rattle after his co-commentator Mils Muliaina said the Reds’ execution was “not quite there.”

“Not quite there, Mils? Not quite there! He’s chucked that three yards forward. They’ve kicked it out on the full twice, one off a free kick. That’s just not good enough at this level. I’m sorry, it’s not good enough.”

Julian Savea, the competition’s record try scorer brough up number 62 when he motored through HMP as if he were a mere slip of a lad and Moana Pasifika richly deserved their 10-0 halftime lead.

Julian Savea of Moana Pasifika scores a try during the round eight Super Rugby Pacific match between Moana Pasifika and Queensland Reds at Semenoff Stadium, on April 12, 2024, in Whangarei, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Julian Savea of Moana Pasifika runs through Marry McLaughlin-Phillips on his way to the tryline. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Reds assistant coach Brad Davis was interviewed at the break. His blunt assessment was spot on.

“It doesn’t get much worse than that first 40. I think we made 17 unforced errors,” said Davis. “Fair play to Moana, they’ve come and hit us with a couple of sucker punches. We’ve put ourselves into a bit of a hole, but we’re looking for a response in this next half.”

The half was barely 90 seconds old before the Reds responded. Fijian front rower Peni Ravai got the try after a strong run from Wilson off the back of a line out set the platform for the Reds forwards to take advantage.


The Reds throught they’d hit the lead in the 46th minute when Flook chased a deep kick and touched it down. The TMO was alert to an incident in the buildup as McDermott tangled with Moana Pasifika flanker Irie Papuni.

Papuni was fending McDermott aggressively around the throat but as the two came to ground McDermott threw a swinging arm into his rival’s midriff. The power of the impact was hard to judge but McDermott was barely sitting down on the naughty chair before it was upgraded to a 20-minute red.

“All the momentum that the Reds have worked so hard to get has now been lost through, I’m sorry to say, a brain explosion,” said Jeff Wilson. “In some ways it was almost like a strike. He’s thrown the arm and it’s made contact. And we saw with [Fijian Drua’s] Frank Lomani who’s been punished severely, it’s not going to be accepted.”

The Reds survived the 20 minutes down a man and moments after parity was restored Havili had a chance to extend the hosts lead to to six. He shanked his kick into the post and it sparked a reaction from the Reds, who went the length of the field and scored an excellent try out wide through Jordan Petaia.

Lawson Creighton nailed the kick from the sideline, then the game swung again with McReight going in high in a tackle on Havili. He too had a yellow upgraded to red, leaving the Reds the final eight minutes to survive up 14-10.

With McDermott and McReight looking on nervously Moana Pasifika worked their way forward and over the line for a famous win, their third this season.