The conference leading Jaguares arrived in Brisbane on a high following an impressive win over the Tahs in Sydney last weekend. The underpowered Reds team fought hard against the Chiefs however the loss effectively put an and to their season’s unlikely finals hopes.
However there would still be plenty to play for given the love the team has for their Indigenous round activity and, in particular, their jersey. Then there was the fact their much loved Number 8, Scott Higginbotham, would be playing his 100th game for his state.
Whether it would be enough to get them over the line against the Argentinians would be discovered over the course of the 90 minutes.
The Reds looked handy early on and found space out wide when new flyhalf Matt McGahan chipped wide to Jock Campbell. The winger grubbered ahead and Chris Feauai-Sautia was on the spot the tackle the covering Jaguares player into touch.
Despite the resulting maul going wrong, the Reds kept the pressure on with a big scrum forcing the visotors down the blind where they passed into touch.
Despite the early possession dominance, the Reds were attacking far too laterally and not really challenging the Jaguare’s defence. Some aimless kicking from McGahan and Bryce Hegarty wasn’t helping.
On the other hand the Jaguares were looking to use the ball and looked dangerous when they had the ball and it was only some scrambling Reds defence that held them out.
As it has been for a few seasons now, it took Samu Kerevi getting his hands on the ball (surprise surprise) for the Reds to get on the scoreboard. It came on the back of a strong snipe by Tate McDermott down the blind before the ball was brought back home for Kerevi to burst through and off-load to his centre partner, Feauaui-Sautia. 7-0
Check this out! Kerevi burst. https://t.co/tbgAzCzVTY
— Reg Roberts (@RugbyReg) June 1, 2019
A quick return penalty by Jags, through Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, brought the score back to 7-3. However a questionable penalty to the Reds not long after enabled Hegarty to take the gap back to 7 with as penalty shot in front. 10-3 The lead wouldn’t’ t last long, though, and it came from a failed line out from the Reds when Angus Blythe caught the ball cleanly but failed to find his half back.
The Jags took it wide and fullback Juan Cruz Mallia dinked a kick through for his speedy winger Sanitiago Carreras to scoot through, toe ahead again and win the race for the ball. 10-8 The Jags were playing exhilarating footy and it looked like a particularly electric passage of play involving a chip and multiple off-loads would see them over in the corner again. But the centenary man, Higginbotham, grabbed the intercept as the last line of defence and raised down field and kicked ahead to chase.
The Jags held out though and were soon back on attack through Reds ill-discipline and a couple of powerful driving mauls. The Reds were able to disrupt the second maul as it looked like another try was imminent. It was all too much for the Reds and this time it was slick hands from Joaquin Diaz Bonilla and canny work around the ruck that saw the visitors over the try through scrumhalf Felipe Ezcurra. 10-15
A Hegarty penalty right on half time narrowed the gap to two after what was a pretty absorbing firs half of rugby. 12-15
It was pretty clear the Reds were instructed to play a territory game at half time. Or perhaps they were just more obviously executing the original game plan. Only Kerevi was kicking effectively with a couple of impressive shots to the corner. Or at least more impressive than what his team mates were producing.
Another strong Reds scrum brought the penalty and Hegarty kicked it over the cross bar to edge the Reds back in front. 16-15.
Queensland flanker Liam Wright was working tirelessly and snagged a key penalty turnover. Hegarty put it in the 22 and the home crowd hoped for another score. They would be denied as the Jaguares showed their experience and composure by repelling a few forwards raids and ultimately securing the penalty to release the pressure.
As a polar opposite, the Jaguares got down to the Reds try line soon after and, while the Reds defended admirably for a period, the visitors were able to get the points through a try to replacement hooker Julian Montoya. 16-22
Boom scrumhalf Tate McDermott suffered a leg injury of some description which meant Scot Malolua would earn a Reds debut. The rookie would need to play about 25 minutes of high pressure footy if the Reds were to get home.
The penalties began to creep up on the Reds and it was proving easy metres and valuable position for the Jaguares. Liam Wright secured another key turnover penalty, with support from some good defence from Higginbotham.
Wright was having a massive game at the ruck as he secured yet another penalty turnover when the Jags were once again hot on attack. It was tough footy from a tough footy player working hard to makeup for some early mistakes with the ball in hand.
Another Reds debutant in prop Gavin Luka would find his way on the field, replacing Taniela Tupou at tight head. Unfortunately it came at the very moment Marcos Kremer bumped his way over for a his team’s fourth try. 29-16
The Argentians were in complete control and were able to regulate the speed of the game being played. The Reds were never able to do the same.
Finally some width of passing saw Hegarty in space and he was able to put Campbell over for his 2nd career try (just). A lovely conversion by Hegarty meant the Reds were still in the game with minutes remaining.
It looked promising when Kerevi put Malolou through a gap. When Kerevi kicked through the crowd was groaning in frustration. But when the Jags kicked it back to him space it was back on!.
Just as quickly it was off again as Kerevi looked to put McGahan in space only for Carrera to snaffle the pass and run 75 odd metres to score in the corner.
Check this out! Bugger. https://t.co/sESMmWpRLp
— Reg Roberts (@RugbyReg) June 1, 2019
It was one of those games when it felt odd that the Reds were still in the game as long as they were. The early try provided a false sense of ability as they struggled to find much more in attack until the Campbell try in the last few minutes.
The Jaguares complete a very impressive tour of Australia and New Zealand and prove themselves to be legitimate premiership contenders. Not because they beat a lowly Reds, but because they played their game, controlled the momentum and took just about every opportunity – all with a team featuring plenty of changes from last week.
They now head home to host the Sharks in Buenos Aires while the Reds will host the Blues, in their last home game. A game that will likely be the last at Suncorp for a couple of favorite sons in Samu Kerevi and Scott Higginbotham.
The Game Changer
No particular moment stood out. McDermott’s injury was a blow and while Maloula played well in his first game, McDermott was a constant threat from the base of the ruck.
The G&GR MOTM
Liam Wright was the stand out Red and won the Frank Ivory Medal for Reds Player of the Match. From the Jags, flyhalf Joaquin Diaz Bonilla was a standout providing plenty of spark..
Liam Wright was excellent and perhaps he’s a Wallaby contender with question marks over David Pocock. Scott Higginbotham wouldn’t let his country down either, not that he’d get another chance to..
Score & Scorers
Tries: Chris Feauai-Sautia 13’, Jock Campbell 77’
Con: Bryce Hegarty 14’, 78’
PG: Bryce Hegarty 21’ 40’, 46’
Tries: Santiago Carreras 25′, 80′, Felipe Ezcurra 37’, Julian Montoya 55’, Marcos Kremer 70’
Con: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla 38’, 55’ 71’
PG: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla 17’