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The St.George Queensland Reds piled on seven tries to record a thrilling 41-35 victory over the Blues in their opening trial game of 2013 in Toowoomba on Saturday night.
The encounter was the perfect hit-out for a Reds team that will next week welcome back a number of Wallabies for their second and final trial game against 2012 Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs, at Stockland Stadium Sunshine Coast.
The Reds attacking juggernaut hit top gear against the Blues with forwards Adam Wallace-Harrison and Liam Gill both crossing the line twice, while James Hanson, Radike Samo and Rod Davies all produced five-pointers.
Reds Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie said the match was exactly what the team needed as they continue their preparations for their season-opening Super Rugby affair against the Brumbies in Canberra on February 16.
“There are certain things we are working on at the moment to make sure we are right for the first game against the Brumbies and there’s a lot we can take out of tonight,” McKenzie said.
“We tested out a number of things that we wanted to be better at than last year, which we were.
“Some of our breakdown work and some of the detail were better. Our scrum and lineout was able to generate a lot of pressure and we got reasonable ball out of that.
“I said to the guys that it’s a trial game but it’s also a selection trial. You have to put your best foot forward. You don’t have to say much before the game, everyone understands the circumstances.
“They get an opportunity to play out there and get to show where they are up to in terms of form.
“There was good pressure the whole way and we’ve got a lot of work to concentrate on during the next few weeks.”
There was plenty to like about the Reds performance in Toowoomba with McKenzie choosing to run two separates line-ups across the two halves of the match, with only flyhalf Quade Cooper, fullback Mike Harris and lock Adam Wallace-Harrison seeing extended game time.
In the opening 40 minutes Radike Samo produced a number of trademark big hits, flyer Luke Morahan recorded three linebreaks down the right touchline and backrowers Nigel Ah Wong and Eddie Quirk were busy at the breakdown.
Playmaker Cooper also flashed moments of brilliance in a strong 60 minute performance, which also included two conversions, while scrumhalf pairing Ben Lucas and Nick Frisby were equally as impressive in their time wearing the number nine jersey.
The Reds started slower than their opposition and found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard early when Blues prop Angus Ta’avao and Ronald Raaymakers both crashed over to give the visitors an early 14-0 lead.
However, it didn’t take long for the Reds to hit top gear, when Wallace-Harrison scored the first of his two tries with a close-range pick-and-go effort.
It was Lucas who provided the spark for the Reds second try as he hit a hard-running James Hanson close to the line, bringing the score to 14-12 late in the opening stanza.
A tighthead scrum on the stroke of halftime gave the Reds one final chance and they didn’t disappoint when Samo darted down the blindside for the team’s third try and a 17-14 lead at the break.
A raft of changes to begin the second half didn’t appear to impact the Reds momentum and within five-minutes Rod Davies further extended their lead after showing plenty of strength in a burrowing effort to the line.
Frisby was another to make an immediate impact from the bench as a decision to take a quick tap put Cooper through the Blues defence while he also threw the final pass to see Wallace-Harrison score his second try.
The Blues produced two amazing moments in the space of minutes to get back into the match with two length of the field tries midway through the second half putting the game in the balance at 29-28 with a quarter of the match remaining.
But, the Reds answered the challenge and replied immediately through Liam Gill, his try converted by Harris from the sideline giving the home side an eight-point lead.
The stage was set for a grandstand finish after the Blues narrowed the margin to 36-35 with nine minutes remaining although it was Gill who once again pushed his way over from the base of the ruck to see the Reds finish the game on top.
The Reds will now turn their attention to their second trial game against Chiefs on the Sunshine Coast on Friday 8 February.
Tickets for the Chiefs match can be purchased here: http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=REDCHIEF13#.UQCtBLYWFT4
St.George Queensland Reds 41 (Adam Wallace-Harrison 2, Liam Gill 2, James Hanson, Radike Samo, Rod Davies tries tries; Quade Cooper 2, Mike Harris cons) def Blues 35 (Angus Ta’avao, Ronald Raaymakers, Albert Nikoro , Francis Saili, Lolagi Visinia tries; Marty McKenzie 5 cons)
16 FEBRUARY 2018