Reds suffer heartbreaking loss to Crusaders - Green and Gold Rugby

Reds suffer heartbreaking loss to Crusaders

Reds suffer heartbreaking loss to Crusaders

Reds Crusaders games at Suncorp Stadium have built up a certain mythical feel about them of late, more on the back of that amazing 2011 Grand Final than anything more recent.  There’s no doubt the Reds entered the game under the most pressure, on the back of their poor showing against the Force in Round 2.

Coach Nick Stiles didn’t hold back on his team early in the week and backed it up by making three critical changes to his starting side with Japanese international Hendrick Tui making his first start for the season, while young lock forward Izack Rodda and wing Izaia Perese would make their run on debuts.

The Crusaders also made three changes from their last outing with flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis and Peter Samu both coming into the back row while former Red, Digby Ioane, comes back to Suncorp on the wing.

The Match

Samu Kerevi beats Digby Ioane and another Crusaders defender to score

Samu Kerevi beats Digby Ioane and another Crusaders defender to score

The improved intent was evident early on for the Reds with some aggressive work by the likes of James Slipper and Stephen Moore in tight. An early turnover by Moore put the Reds on the attack almost immediately before Rodda lost the ball while looking for an off-load.

Both Digby and Perese found their way into the game early, unfortunately for the Crusaders it was via a high tackle by Ioane on the young Red winger.

The Reds maintained the attack and a series of classy plays saw them pushing hard for a try very soon. A couple of smart Duncan Paia’aua passes looked to set them away, but they couldn’t convert. The home team had a number of chances to get across the line, and probably should have, before a wayward pass by Frisby went over the sideline. Thankfully the Crusaders were penalised and Quade stepped up to put the first points of the night on the board.

The Crusaders had their chance to even things up when Quade made a high tackle as the Crusaders returned an aimless Frisby box kick. The kick by flyhalf Mitch Hunt skimmed the goal posts and Paia’aua was able to clear and relieve pressure.

Soon after Quade put through a well-placed kick that would prove to be perhaps the defining moment of the half. As All Black Israel Dagg dived to catch the ball he knocked the it on and Digby picked it up in an off-side position. Worse still Dagg injured his knee and was forced from the field.

The Reds then opted to kick for touch and take the lineout to set up a rolling maul. After their Plan A failed, it was time to resort to Plan B – give it to Samu. They did and Samu did what Samu does – run over his opponent to score a try.

The Dagg injury was made worse when Seta Tamanivalu was replaced too and the experience in the Crusaders team was thinning quickly.

The Crusaders were even further on the back foot not long latter when Eto Nabuli was in for his fourth try in two weeks. Nabuli was the beneficiary of some brilliant Kerevi work who spun onto a flat Steve Moore pass to charge down field before dishing it wide to his winger.

The Crusaders suffered another back to back blow when George Smith snagged a key turnover followed soon afterwards by Aussie-born backrower Peter Samu being replaced for injury.

The Crusaders are masters of retaining momentum, however, and they did it through a delightful wide pass from Ryan Crotty that found space when it drew in a Nabuli misread. Ioane was the beneficiary out wide who found space and then put in a well-placed chip. The bounce of the ball then went the way of scrumhalf Mitch Drummond who barged over for his team’s first try of the game.

Perese was having an impressive first run on performance and did well to claim a Quade cross-field kick which put the Reds on the attack again. Once again the Crusaders gave away a professional foul and Frisby opted for a quick tap. The ball went wide with space seemingly available before Paia’aua spilled the pill in the face of some charging Crusaders defense.

Izaia Perese is officially welcomed to Super Rugby

Izaia Perese is officially welcomed to Super Rugby

When Mike Alaalatoa was penalised at the scrum, the set piece momentum was changing, and Quade kicked the goal to extend the home team’s lead.

It is at this time that all teams are aware of the ability for kiwi teams to score crucial points before the break. It was the Reds that looked like they would go over but a poor pass by Samu to Rob Simmons in space, and then a chip kick by Quade that hit the upright, denied the Reds a couple of very real opportunities.

It seemed like the Crusaders would have the last say, however a wide pass floated forward and the Reds were able to close out the half 20-7.

Second Half:

Coach Stiles made changes to the Reds at half time when Kane Douglas replaced the impressive Rodda (head knock) and Andrew Ready came on for Stephen Moore (strategic), who had his best half for the Reds this season.

The Reds managed to keep the pressure on for the first quarter and probably more significantly the Crusaders were very un-Crusader-like in turning over the ball on regular attacking forays. The team was clearly missing the attacking abilities of their injured All Blacks.

Despite the Reds having the run of the play, including gaining ascendancy in the scrum, their first real point scoring opportunity did not come until almost three quarter time when Quade had a shot from about 45m out.

The kick was unsuccessful and the score remained. It became apparent that the next points would be crucial.

While the Reds probably needed to attempt to dictate the run of the game, but playing it deep and using their set piece.  Nick Frisby, who went to his box kick throughout the night, kicked deep but kept the ball in play.

Marty McKenzie beats Eto Nabuli to a loose ball

Marty McKenzie beats Eto Nabuli to a loose ball

The ball found fullback Marty McKenzie on the full and it’s money for jam for the Crusaders from there. McKenzie found space and ultimately it was replacement scrumhalf Bryn Hall who dashed over for the try.  With the lead cut to just eight it was it still enough breathing space for the Reds with less than 20 minutes to go?

Replacement props Taniela Tupou and Marcus Vanzati (on debut as a late replacement for Sef Faga’ase) were brought on and the Reds strength at scrum time would soon be tested. On the first Reds’ scrum the Crusaders powered through the young Reds pack to gain a penalty. The penalty was soon reversed when Jordan Taufau threw a punch at Rob Simmons, and was yellow carded.

Theoretically it should have been enough for the Reds to secure the win. It wasn’t and if anything it seemed to trigger them into shutting up shop while the Crusaders remained calm and confident, particularly with the strong impact from their bench.

With still eight or so minutes left in the game when the Reds opted to try to slow the game down by keeping the ball and attempted to out-Crusader the Crusaders. The kiwis love that stuff and just sat back waiting for the turnover. It came and the kick downfield was knocked on by a very casual Cooper.

From the scrum the Crusaders looked to find their way over but a big Nabuli hit looked to give the Reds a chance down the other end of the field as Adam Korczyk chased the loose ball down. Play was brought back, however, for a knock on in the Nabuli tackle.

The Crusaders wouldn’t be denied twice and, after patient recycling of the ball, Hall was in for his second when he dotted the ball at the base of the upright. So the lead was down to one with only minutes to go in the game.

Karmichael Hunt’s defense was epic all night and once again he put in a big hit that turned the ball over and gave the Reds a chance to close out the match. It would come down to another Reds scrum where the rookies were under all sorts of pressure but held firm.

Once again the Reds opted to play the ball in their half and retain possession for as long as they could. The penalty was almost inevitable and came when Kerevi was ruled to have sealed the ball at the ruck.

Crusaders celebrate a win after the siren

Crusaders celebrate a win after the siren

Crusader flyhalf Mitch Hunt stepped up to take the kick as the siren sounded. It soared through and the Crusaders were in front for the first time all night.

Reds coach Stiles was frustrated at his team’s inability to close out the match particularly their refusal to kick the ball down field and back their defense at the end of the game – an option more questionable with referees tending to go looking for penalties in this closing moments.

The Reds fly out Monday morning to South Africa where they will take on the Lions while the Crusaders head back home to host the Blues.

The Game Changer

Ironically the yellow card to Taufua seemed to turn the Reds off as they looked to close the game out. It was in these ten minutes that the Crusaders scored all of their final 10 points to seal the game.


Hendrick Tui was wonderful for the Reds in his return to the run on side.  Digby Ioane ran for the most metres of any other player, while Sam Whitelock led by example. In the end it was the ice cool play of Mitch Hunt that kept is team in the game and ultimately won it for them.

Wallaby Watch

Karmichael Hunt was epic in defense and dangerous whenever he handled the ball. While he mishandled on occasions, inside centre Duncan Paia’aua was one of the most dangerous players on the park.

The Details

Score & Scorers

Reds 20
Tries: Eto Nabuli, Samu Kerevi
Conversions: Quade Cooper 2
Penalties: Quade Cooper 2
Crusaders 22
Tries: Bryn Hall 2, Mitch Drummond,
Conversions: Mitch Hunt 2
Penalties: Mitch Hunt 1


Jordan Taufau – Yellow Card (69′) – striking




  • Simon

    Didn’t deserve to win after blowing that lead. I’m disappointed but not in the least surprised, and that’s the most disappointing part of all.

  • Gottsy

    Was some good signs for the reds, but ultimately I feel the lack of experience on the park at the end was what really cost us. Perese and Paia’aua were doing some really good things, Rodda had some nice touches and Ready looked dangerous in the second half- these are all young players though, hopefully they will be better for the experience of a game like this.
    Not making too many connections here, but I see a few parallels with the 2010 season here where there was just a bit of a lack of polish.
    Hopefully the boys can have a good tour

  • Gallagher

    Painful for sure, but its a long season and we have played three very close games, where only one we held at the death. We are on the improve, the team are most importantly playing tactically far superior than in recent years finally! Feels good to be competing again, the top eight is not out of the question by a long shot!!!

  • idiot savant

    Another great example of how Australian teams play with the wrong strategy. The way to win in the modern game is for the primary strategy not to be attack but to apply the utmost pressure on the opposition when they have the ball. And the idea is to kick the ball out of your own territory and deliberately give the opposition the ball. Then use all the pressure tools available – intensity and great technique at the breakdown, line speed on the backs, loitering to get in the way of quick ball etc, etc.

    Winning attack is counter attack from turnover ball, not making the play when you have the ball. As we saw tonight referees dont penalise offside defense patterns nor do they yellow card deliberately illegal pressure (like Ryan Crotty’s offside shut down of the Reds half when the Crusaders were under extreme pressure). All the Crusaders had to do was to apply intense pressure when the Reds had the ball and tries would result from the turnovers. Its a winning formula even when you have 14 men. This is the dominant paradigm of modern rugby and the way referees prioritise interpretations of the rules. The Kiwis are light years ahead of everyone else in understanding this and Eddie Jones has also worked it out which is why NZ and England are the top 2 sides in the world.

    • Who?

      I’m not sure Crotty wouldn’t have been carded if Frisby had bothered to give the ref a chance to do it…

  • Who?

    Reds had all rights to go for that win, but they did some stupid things… Hands just weren’t good enough. The turnover before Cooper’s knock on leading to the last Crusaders try was created by Tui fumbling and the pack assuming it’d be a scrum while he was still juggling it. Turned out he caught it, but no one supported him, so the Crusaders turned over the ball.
    Frisby’s option to take a quick tap after the cynical offending of the Crusaders in the 22 leading to Paia’aua’s knock on was also stupidity. The rest of the team weren’t ready. Half of them were walking, 30m upfield! You could criticise them for that, but I’d argue they’d already realized there wasn’t an opportunity for a quick play on. If Frisby were sensible and had waited, perhaps his captain could’ve asked why the Crusaders’ decision to run around the back of a clearly formed ruck and tackle the halfback without the ball in the 22 wasn’t worthy of a Card, or at least a team warning.
    Whilst Hendrik was close to best on ground, I reckon he needed a spell around 65 minutes. His hands deteriorated rapidly after that. Nabuli did little in the second half, and it was concerning that at times we had Kerevi and Nabuli as our backfield – Kerevi being the kicking option.
    Quade only missed the one kick, it’s rare to note that an Aussie team had a better goal kicking accuracy than a Kiwi team (regardless of whether it’s their first choice or fifth choice kicker!). And that’s in spite of him injuring his knee early in the game.
    So whilst the Reds had the right to go for the win, they didn’t do a few simple things well, and so it’s not surprising that the team with the most tries won. The Reds didn’t do much through the second half. Sadly, the Crusaders were deserving, even though I really thought the last try shouldn’t have been awarded (didn’t the ball carrier in the tackle immediately before the try put his left knee on the ground, then continue to step, rising off the ground stepping on his right foot? That’s ‘tackled player not releasing the ball’ – Penalty red). But I’m sure it wasn’t the only decision people would question, and I’m sure the questions aren’t all from only one team. But that’s the main one that had me unclear off the big screen…

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Well that was a disappointing game. Neither team really grabbed hold of that game and it was almost a waiting game to see who stuffed up first. If the Reds want to win this conference they need to start to take the game to the opposition and not hold off once they are ahead. I’m not so sure about the Crusaders this year, they are making things a lot harder than they need to be and I think they’ll start to come unstuck. I’m not sure their depth is that good and once they travel outside of Australia they could fail badly. Mind you my picks in Super-Bru have been so crap lately that I could be totally wrong.

    • Brisneyland Local

      KRL, as I said inside 5 points would be a good result for us. Whilst still disappointing, there are signs of improvement.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        I tend to agree. I thought they played well at times but just couldn’t sustain it. Some of their senior players need to have a chat with the man in the mirror and start stepping up but some of the youngsters are showing the passion that is needed. As you say, a start and but for some luck could have been a win

        • Brisneyland Local

          I thought Moore and Smith stood up. Infact Moore was playing like he was a 20 yo again. Smith is still a legend. He knows, when and more importantly when not to inject himself. Despite what the other people are saying I didnt think QC was that bad.
          And the reality is, compared to the Warratahs game, the Reds looked good!

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Oh yes. The Tahs were crap. About time Moore stood up. Now it’d be good to see some consistency from him and the rest of the team

  • Tim

    Sums up Australian rugby could have, should have, but didn’t win. Although in saying that the last penalty i did think was a bit harsh but hey they should have been more points in front anyway.

  • SuckerForRed

    I do wonder if perhaps Ready & Tuttle have earned a start. Not sure Frisby’s box kicks are doing us any favours & the experience of Moore at the back end of the game might be good for an otherwise young forward pack.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Moore played lie a man possessed for the first half. he was quite impressive.

    • dru

      For the first time in pretty much forever, I thought Frisby’s box was tactical considered and mostly well implemented. A definite step in the right direction.

      • 30 mm tags

        Box kicks whereby the opposition get the ball and we put minimal pressure on the opposition is what happened.IMO the tactic was poorly executed by Frisby and poorly organized by Slipper or Quade. I thought Frisby was well below last year’s form. Tuttle needs time on the field to prove he’s better.

    • Los Rojo Coala

      Yeah really keen to see a lot more of Tuttle at Super Rugby level. He’s looking good. I mean you could argue that it was lack of experience that led to that penalty right at the end – I was just waiting for that penalty to come – or a knock on or something – as he kept throwing it for those short hit-ups at the end there. But in general – Tuttle could be the answer.

    • Saus

      Tuttle has impressed me every time he has come on late in the opening rounds. Considering he’s only 20, he appears to have a very good rugby brain and maturity about him. Just his lightning fast stance switch at the back of one ruck was impressive. I’ll call it early but I suspect he’ll be a Wallaby bolter in the near future.

  • theduke

    Forwards standing around in the last 10 minutes. No urgency. When the opposition are down a man, you don’t ease up. Close it out. Bloody disappointed.

  • Brisneyland Local

    Well GAGR’s BL could be really negative here, but for once I am not going to be. The fact that an Australian team got within 2 points of beating a Kiwi team and the Crusaders, none the less, has to have some positive tone.
    Yes it was disappointing that we didnt close it out, and there is still dumb decision making, and some poor skill execution. But we did significantly better than last week and our attack at times looked blisteringly good, until we dropped it.
    I was at the ground and the crowd were really positive and vocal which is great.
    Can any one add light to why the TMO didnt yellow card two Crusaders players after the first fight. There was a clear punch to the face, then the dickhead who got yellow carded in the second scuffle smacked a Reds player with an open hand to the back of the head. I was, rightly or wrongly, under the impression that contact to the head of that ind of nature is an automatic yellow card?

    Overall a heart breaking loss, but definite signs of improvement. Kerevi is a beast. And Special K is really starting to loo the goods. QC had some really average parts but he also had some really good parts too. That kick that hit the post was a sublime kick, just disappointing that it didnt come off. George Smith, what a legend, people doubted whether he could still cut it. There are no doubts, he is still the master!

    • Pearcewreck

      Nice comment BLL. I’m amazed so many people are positive about the Reds result.
      If the Brumbies blew that lead, I would be devastated.
      Actually, I was devastated anyway, really wanted the Reds to win.
      Re George Smith, disappointed he didn’t return to the Brumbies, but personally, I never doubted that he still had it.
      Wasps player of the year last year, may have even been Aviva Premiership player of the year too?

      • Brisneyland Local

        PW, dont get me wrong, I was devastated. Heartbroken! But the reality sunk in later! We have beaten the Sharks, we came within 2 points of beating the Crusaders. Ok we lost to the force but I feel that was more of an abhoration! A loss is still a loss. But this is a fairly new squad, in terms of the team playing together. I think all things considered, we are tracking well. The haters are going to hate, and I am sure we will hear Matt Rowley bagging Quade, and for some of the points he will raise he is correct. But I think we are improving each game. Yes there are still some difficulties to overcome. Our basic skills are still average at times. But then again after watching the other Australian franchises, we are not on our pat malone there either.
        After watching the Tahs get pumped by the Sharks, I considered our effort against them, and we did ok, we got a win.
        Our set piece needs work, but at times our scrum was clearly dominant! Our line out held (for once), and our attacking play was pretty good. We just have to learn, like KRL constantly states, Kiwi teams play for the full 80 mins. They believe 15 points down with 15 mins to go that they can and probably will win.
        We the Reds, but all Aussie franchises need that belief.
        We also need the game plan and the skills to back it up, but piece by piece we are getting there.

  • idiot savant

    On a positive note, there were some good things from the Reds. Two things that stood out for me were -1. that was the best exit strategy Ive seen from the Reds for a long time. One of the reasons why the Crusaders were not in the game for the first 60 minutes was that they rarely got into the Reds half; and 2. much improved clean out techniques at the ruck. The Reds got a lot more good breakdown ball than they have been getting for some seasons. If the officials had stopped the Crusaders from standing in front of the last mans’ feet the Reds might have opened them up more from breakdown ball. The Reds fell apart in this area in the last 15 minutes but until then were good.

    • theduke

      I noticed that too. The ball security at the ruck was very good. Something that seemed severely lacking in the Tahs game. I wonder if that commitment at the breakdown contributed to fatigue in the final stages of the game?

      • idiot savant

        Could be. Also Ready and Douglas played the whole second half so the pack was not as fresh as a ‘closing’ pack might have been. I wonder if Brad Thorn is one of those old fashioned coaches that punishes players for a loss on Monday? You never know but the fear of Monday might just rev the boys up in the last 20 minutes as the season goes on!

  • Los Rojo Coala

    It was super disappointing to lose it right at the end there but you would have to say – to come that close to a win against the Crusaders would have been unthinkable a week ago. Hopefully a good sign for things to come. The baby Reds keep impressing, Perese, Duncan Paia’aua are looking good. Also Nabuli seems to be coming into his own early in the season. Set pieces were a lot better. There seems to be more cohesion for the unit as a whole.

  • Jason

    Hopefully we’ll see Andrew Ready starting at Hooker against the Lions.

  • Nicholas Wasiliev

    In my own honest opinion, this match really sums up Aussie rugby right now. We do have the players to compete, but I wonder whether the players heads are in the right place. The fact that talk of Aussie teams getting cut hasn’t helped them, but also it’s because Kiwi teams have a mental edge on the Aussies at the moment. This match could have been something to turn the tide, that Aussie rugby in general needed. What happened in that second half!?

    • idiot savant

      Its a great question. But its a familiar pattern with Kiwi rugby. The ABs win a lot of matches in the last 20 mins. Just last year Wales and the Pumas were leading into the second half and yet got blown away. We should swab them. When everyone else is exhausted they find an extra yard of pace and swarm like angry ants. We see it time and again. The Crusaders did it to the Reds with only 14 men. Their ability to play with more pace and aggression at the back end of games is extraordinary.


The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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