After an uninspiring performance against an impressive Rebels outfit last weekend, the Reds hosted the Stormers at Suncorp Stadium. It would be their first taste of a South African side and serve a vital entree to their impending two match tour to the Republic to take on the Bulls and the Sharks. For the Stormers the match would be the penultimate match on a tour that has seen them suffer losses to the Hurricanes and the Blues.
With both teams sitting second bottom in their respective pools, the Stormers with an extra win up their sleeve, a win was vital for both teams.
After the hustle and bustle that was the end of the Hurricanes v Highlanders match, this game was a little more subdued. Neither team was able to ignite their attack. The Stormers at least were insisting on a ball in hand approach which may have paid off if wasn’t for their poor handling.
The Reds relied on the more slow and sure approach, utilising their solid set piece, their boot and the ill-discipline of the Stormers.
The first real try scoring opportunity came the Stormers way when Filipo Daugunu spilled a straight forward kick. The Stomers looked wide and Dillyn Leyds put in a lovely weighted kick which looked like Damian Willemse had managed to regather and score. Replays showed his efforts would go unrewarded as the ball was placed on the deadball line.
Duagunu was pulled immediately, with the dropped ball seemingly evidence enough that the wrist injury he suffered in the first minutes of the game, was not fit for play. The experiment with Naivalu was over already with Paia’aua on and Kerevi back to 13.
It was a rough start to Jack Hardy, having given Willemse the early opportunity. He gave his opposite number, Sergeal Petersen, just an inch too much space and he took it and, again, looked over in the corner. Just enough pressure from fullback Hamish Stewart in cover saw Petersen’s foot go into touch and the Reds were off the hook again. But under threat.
While the Stormers were using the width of the field in attack, the Reds were targeting their props in the backline and putting them under pressure with rush defence. And it paid off with a couple of turnovers.
The Reds were relying, meanwhile, on the spark of Tate McDermott around the base and his linking with the likes of Lukhan Salakai-Loto as a battering ram.
I struggled to find much more to write about for the rest of the half frankly as both teams did their best to foil point scoring opportunities. The Reds were over reliant on their scrum and rolling maul, and any ball they did get was foiled by inaccurate passing.
When Stormers skipper Siya Kolisi was yellow carded with just seconds to go in the half, it at least gave the Reds something to look forward in the second half.
The patience of the viewers was rewarded very early in the 2nd half when another Stormers penalty enabled good position for the Reds. When Samu Kerevi saw space outside, his improved distribution skills delivered a lovely pass out to Naivalu who returned the favour at the last line of defence for his skipper to stroll over under the posts. Reds up 7-0.
Hegarty and Kerevi combined soon after and looked to set up Hamish Stewart with Jack Hardy outside him. Stewart had the blinkers on, taking the tackle, but his pack were on hand to eventually drive their way over. It was the try hound Brandon Paenga-Amosa who would rise with the ball and it was all happening at the MCG Suncorp Stadium. Reds 14-0
It was a punishing 10 minutes of the Yellow Card for the absent Kolisi. However his return to the field saw an immediate rebound by the visitors. On the back of repeated infringements by the Reds the Stormers scored their first try of the match after a scrum 5m out as backrower Kobus van Dyk powered over in the tackle of Stewart and Paia’aua. Reds 14-7
Kerevi was inserting himself into the match and beginning to find space almost at will. Unfortunately a couple of last passes were loose and denied the Reds in strong attacking positions. Perhaps he was at risk at overplaying his hand as, on another occasion, he opted to back himself rather than passing to Naivalu who had space to test his title as the fasted man in Australian rugby.
Some more curious option taking, this time a Hegarty chip to his outside man while the Reds were attacking the line, meant the Reds weren’t getting reward for their attacking efforts. The team were able to maintain territory, though, and when they were awarded another penalty, the livewire McDermott took the tap quickly and stepped his way over the line. Reds 21-7
It seemed as though Captain Kolisi had got his team back into the match as the game entered its last ten minutes. The flanker powered through some QLD defence and looked set to score. He would have too if it wasn’t for the work of replacement half Moses Sorovi who managed to hold him up, with some help from Hamish Stewart.
The Stormers had the scrum though, and good position, but a massive shove by Taniela Tupou on Springbok Steven Kitshoff gave the Reds the ball and a break out down the wing. It all came to naught when Paia’aua fumbled the ball in contact and the Stormers would have another chance.
The Stormers got their try in the end when a lovely little backline interchange put Springbok centre Damian de Allende over. The rushed conversion attempt went wide but we were still set up for an exciting last 5 minutes. Reds 21-12.
Poor Jack Hardy was denied another try opportunity when replacement prop Harry Hoopert decided he had the speed to get over in the corner and was subsequently tackled and lost the ball. The ref thankfully brought the ball back for a penalty midfield penalty which Bryce Hegarty kicked to seal the win.
After the snooze that was the first half, at least there were tries to enjoy in the second. The quality of rugby was far from great and probably indicative of where both teams sit on the ladder. The Reds now head off to South Africa and will be likely be looking for wingers with injuries to Daugunu and Naivalu while the Stormers must now head down to Melbourne to face the Rebels in what is fast becoming the tour from hell.
The Turning Point
Clearly the yellow card to Kolisi was the match breaker. The Reds were able to plan for it at half time and raised their tempo to take full advantage. The Stormers were playing catch up after that.
The GAGR MOTM
Kerevi upped his ante in the 2nd half, and I thought the work of Salakai-Loto and Rodda was excellent. But it was young scrumhalf Tate McDermott who was the spark throughout the game as he continues to impress in the 9 jersey.
Salakai-Loto’s running game was much more effective this week as he seemed to get his body height lower. Tupou’s impact from the bench was the best footy we’ve seen him play this year. But, again, McDermott was the man who did his reputation most favours and must be a contender for a wider Wallaby squad position.
Tries: Kerevi (41’) Brandon Paenga-Amosa (45’) McDermott (’66)
Cons: Hegarty 3 (42’, 46’, 67’)
Pens: Hegarty 78’
Tries: Kobus van Dyk (50’), Damian de Allende (74’)
Cons: Jean-Luc du Plessis (51’)
Yellow Cards: Siya Kolisi (39’)