The St.George Queensland Reds record a commanding 32-17 bonus-point victory over the Rebels in Melbourne as they continue their surge up the FxPro Super Rugby ladder with two games to go.
The month-long competition break hasn’t slowed the Reds growing momentum with the four-tries-to-two triumph, and fourth straight Super Rugby success, further strengthening their finals hopes with only two games remaining against the Highlanders and Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium in the next fortnight.
A three-try opening half blitz had the Reds in the box-seat at halftime with tries to Chris F’Sautia, Dom Shipperley and Adam Wallace-Harrison, along with a perfect four-from-four with the boot to Mike Harris, giving the visitors a handy 24-3 lead at the end of the 40 minutes.
It wasn’t the same razzle-dazzle but the Reds showed enough grit in the second half to withstand a Rebels fight-back before putting the contest beyond doubt when scrumhalf Nick Frisby sealed the victory with a crucial fourth try in the 74th minute.
“We spoke first and foremost about getting a result and we set things up nicely in the first half. We eventually got that fourth try and that is very important in terms of the competition,” captain Will Genia said.
“We knew they would come out really emotional and fired up with the guys they were farewelling, so we just wanted to weather that storm early and pressure them into mistakes.
“I’ve very pleased with the way we finished. We’ve now got to win our last two games…and we’ll go away and prepare to do that.”
The match continues a strong run for the Reds against their Australian Conference rivals in 2012 with the win their sixth from seven games, including clean-sweeps of both the Brumbies and Rebels.
It also maintains the Reds all-time unbeaten record against the Rebels with four wins from as many matches against Melbourne since they joined the competition in 2011.
The victory was made even more impressive with the Reds forced to overcome the gameday loss of Wallabies flyer Digby Ioane just hours before the clash with the winger diagnosed by medical staff with a chest infection.
His late withdrawal saw talented 18-year-old flyer Chris F’Sautia earn his first run-on appearance for the Reds with the youngster promoted from the bench to the starting XV in just his second Super Rugby appearance.
F’Sautia didn’t fail to disappoint in Ioane’s absence and crossed for his second try in as many matches when he scored the game’s opening five-pointer with a well-executed backline move in the 17th minute.
It continues a dynamic start to his brief Super Rugby career which commenced when F’Sautia scored on debut with his first involvement in the Reds final game before the June Test break against the Lions.
The vacated spot on the bench went to 20-year-old lock Blake Enever who made his FxPro Super Rugby and Queensland debut after being called into action in the 77th minute. Sunshine Coast product Enever now plays for Queensland Premier Rugby club Easts and was the latest Australian National Academy talent to join the Reds squad as injury cover.
There were a number of influential players on the night but none made more of an impact than hooker Saia Faingaa who was impressive in an 80-minute effort in his milestone 50th game for Queensland.
Quade Cooper, Will Genia and Mike Harris all provided a spark for the Reds in attack while Adam Wallace-Harrison stepped up with an increased leadership role in the absence of James Horwill, playing arguably his best game in the Reds colours.
It was a quick and attacking opening 10 minutes to the match although the rust of a month-long break to the competition forced both teams into a number of uncharacteristic errors which resulted in the score being locked at nil.
The Rebels did however secure first points only five minutes later through a long-range James O’Connor penalty goal however their lead didn’t last long and only two minutes later it was F’Sautia crossing on the left wing.
A sideline conversion and further penalty goal to sharpshooter Mike Harris extended the Reds lead to 10-3 after a quarter of play.
An incredible 80-metre effort then put the Reds in front 17-3 when Dom Shipperley took advantage of some great lead-up work that involved a tighthead scrum, chip-and-chase from Mike Harris and slick hands from both centre Anthony Faingaa and winger F’Sautia.
The Reds opening half dynamics continued as halftime neared with vice-captain Adam Wallace-Harrison falling over the line after playmaker Quade Cooper showed great strength to produce an offload in traffic near the tryline.
Cooper and Australian Under 20s captain Liam Gill were rewarded for standout efforts in the first half when they were substituted at halftime for replacements Ben Lucas and Beau Robinson.
It was a sloppy beginning to the second half with an offside at the kickoff and dropped ball within two minutes giving the Rebels strong field position although Harris continued his perfect night with the boot to bring the Reds lead to 27-3 with 30 minutes to play.
It took 55 minutes for the Rebels to finally crack the Reds defence when Kurtley Beale, who had moved to flyhalf with James O’Connor leaving the field injured, crossing under the posts.
Another try to Rebels winger Lachlan Mitchell made for an exciting conclusion but it was a cut-out pass from Genia to try-scorer Frisby which would be the final nail in the coffin, Harris pushing a sideline conversion wide to end his night with only one miss from six attempts.
It’s an important next fortnight for the Reds with matches at Suncorp Stadium against the Highlanders and NSW Waratahs to determine their finals fate. The Reds now sit equal with the Brumbies on top of the Australian Conference with 49 competition althoguh the Brumbies still to play in round 16 with a clash tomorrow night against the Western Force in Perth.
Make sure you are there to support the team in their run to the finals by securing your seat through www.ticketek.com.au.
St.George Queensland Reds 32 (Chris F’Sautia, Dom Shipperley, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Nick Frisby tries; Mike Harris 3 cons, 2 pens) def Melbourne Rebels 17 (Kurtley Beale, Lachlan Mitchell tries; Julian Huxley, Kurtley Beale cons; James O’Connor pen)