The QR Reds have ended a testing fortnight in South Africa primed to consolidate on their two eye-catching performances with an overdue win against the Cheetahs at Suncorp Stadium on March 1.
Redsrugby reports that the Reds ended their Investec Super 14 road trip on a positive note, worrying the powerful Bulls before conceding crucial points while playing a man down and then pushing the Stormers to within a penalty goal in a late rush and scoring four tries to three to salvage two competition points.
Coach Phil Mooney said the spirit his squad showed against the two elite teams boosted the players’ confidence even though they did not get full reward for their effort.
“We’ve got a young group who are working hard for each other and displaying a lot of energy and a lot of pride and I think that’s great,” Mooney said.
“We’ve just have to finetune a couple of areas and when we do click, it’s going to be great.
“The Bulls and the Stormers will be highly ranked sides I think, so to perform that well against them was very pleasing.
“I think they will be very difficult to beat at home this season and that was proved when the Blues got beaten fairly convincingly against the Bulls in Pretoria (last weekend).
“It is very difficult to win in South Africa and even more so at altitude, so the fact that we pushed both sides is a reflection on the improvement we’ve made.”
Mooney said the Reds’ comeback from a 27-5 deficit after losing Wallabies duo Berrick Barnes (corked thigh) and Peter Hynes (knee) early in the second half showed the fighting spirit and depth the side has developed.
“What it certainly shows is every guy that has been given an opportunity has aimed up,” he said.
“The fact that we’ve been able to finish games would indicate that the guys who have come on have given us energy and have certainly given us skill.”
Barnes, Hynes and hooker Sean Hardman (Achilles tendon), have been undergoing intense medical treatment to ensure their availability for the Cheetahs.
“There has been good improvement with their injuries,” Mooney said.
“With all our injured players, we’ll give them the appropriate time. We obviously don’t want to compromise our preparation by waiting too long.
“Fortunately we’re playing Sunday so it gives us a couple of extra days, so we’ll probably have an indication by the middle of the week on how they are progressing.”
Digby Ioane was a dominant force for the Reds during the past fortnight at both outside centre and his customary role on the wing, leaving Mooney with a strong alternative if Charlie Fetoai and Morgan Turinui, who will undergo scans this week on a lingering shoulder injury, fail to prove their fitness by Sunday.
“He’s certainly a skilled player and he’s developing all the time. But I think whilst he’s done well for us at 13, he’s a world class winger.”
Fullback Mark McLinden was another who delighted Mooney after a promising display in his first full 80 minutes of Investec Super 14 rugby.
“What Mark underwent in South Africa is far different from anything he has encountered in rugby league.
“He came off the bench against the Bulls and was impressive. Against the Stormers he started the game and played the full 80 minutes and looked threatening.”
Mooney said Ioane and McLinden must now replicate their performances against a Cheetahs outfit looking for their first ever win in Australasia.
“They’re a team we have a lot of respect for. They’re a very big and abrasive side and they’ve got great pace on the wing.
“They’re a side who are far better than their results would indicate the last couple of seasons.
“But we’re pleased to be at home and looking forward to playing in front of our crowd for the first time.”
Mooney has opted to give his players a slightly easier beginning to the week to ensure the squad displays the same fight and determination shown overseas.
“The start of the week is light, but we crank it up towards the back end of the week. We have an important preparation and the boys are fairly attuned to all the travel now.”
Mooney believes the unusual Sunday timeslot shouldn’t worry his troops and says the forecast heat should be an advantage.
“As far as I’m concerned Sunday afternoon is football in Brisbane, so it’s a great timeslot for us.”
Mooney said a decision on the availability of Wallaby Hugh McMeniman will be made later in the week.
“Hugh has been on compassionate leave and we’ll assess his availability when it’s right for him.
“When he’s ready he’ll be welcomed back.”
Powerful lock/backrower Ezra Taylor will make his first appearance for Queensland in the Reds 2nd XV v Waratahs 2nd XV curtain raiser match since being sidelined by foot surgery.
“Ezra is going to come back via the Academy (match) so that’s great news for us. He’s over his injury woes and back playing.”Tweet