Brave but disjointed. Spirited yet outclassed. Battling Queensland are back to the drawing board after a disappointing loss to the Stormers at Suncorp Stadium.
Foxsports reports that this was a four-try lesson from a South African outfit which arrived at the ground in last place after a single try from their previous four hours of Super 14 rugby.
“At 16-13 up we should have put the game out of reach,” said Reds coach Phil Mooney, who lamented a lack of composure under pressure.
It’s hard to know where the Reds go from here.
They led for just three minutes and they had some hope at 16-13 at the 54-minute mark when skipper John Roe burrowed over for his fifth try of the season from a quick tap.
For the second time in the match, it was an opportunity set up by the strength of the Reds scrum with the front-row combinations built around Dayna Edwards, Greg Holmes, Sean Hardman, Stephen Moore and Rodney Blake doing their jobs well.
Sadly, one or two weapons are not nearly enough.
The Stormers ran at the Reds from the kick-off and their greater speed found holes.
Stormers flanker Luke Watson ran with purpose and linked better than the entire Reds back row put together with his handling, off-loads and support work.
Watson, held up over the line twice in the first half, scored the try that put his side ahead 20-16 after hooker Schalk Brits made a break. The match was out of reach when a Chris Latham stab kick was superbly intercepted by Springbok full-back Conrad Jantjes.
In an instant, replacement half-back Bolla Conradie was diving over to sink the dagger into the Reds.
The first half was a case of international rugby role reversal. The side with the vastly-superior scrum and kicking possession away more often was Australian.
The side flinging the ball wide at every opportunity was South African.
The Reds found themselves defending desperately and the 10-3 deficit they faced after 28 minutes could easily have been bloated further.
Within the opening 10 minutes, winger Clinton Schifcofske had set the example by holding up flanker Luke Watson and young winger Brando Va’aulu had made a superb front-on tackle to deny his opposite Tonderai Chavhanga.
A pile of Reds bodies kept Watson up off the ground in the try-zone after absorbing enormous pressure but the bigger play came moments later on the stroke of half-time when the Queensland eight repelled a five-metre scrum from the Stormers.
The initial Reds try did come from sustained pressure and Sam Cordingley doing what cheeky half-backs always do – dart and step from a quick tap.
That clawed the score back to 10-8. It was the same margin at 13-11 early in the second half when Berrick Barnes banged over his second field goal.
STORMERS 34 (P Grant, L Watson, B Conradie, T Chavhanga tries; Grant 4 con, 2 pen)
REDS 16 (C Latham, L Houston tries; B Barnes 2 field goals).
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ).