The Reds were really disappointed with their loss last week against the Bulls. REALLY disappointed. But apparently, they trained really well and really wanted to win this week. Really! They did!
The First Half Synopsis
Well, perhaps they were right. There was immediate improvement for the Reds and immediate results with Bryce Hegarty first to score, following a great charge by Alex Mafi after he recovered a loose Sharks lineout through.
The Reds attach looked a lot more varied and sharp and was notably improved on last week. We saw some actual backline moves and different lines run. As a result each of Samu Kerevi, Hamish Stewart, Chris Feauai-Sautia and Sefa Naivalu found space and looked dangerous. Likewise the pack was playing with more intent and worked hard in all aspects of their play.
Notably the Sharks turned down a few penalty goal opportunities, instead opting to kick for the corner and back their set piece. None of them paid off though as their propensity to turn over the ball on attack remained.
It was not long after one such turnover that the Reds were in again. The pack marched their own way up field from a driving maul before, after drawing an advantage, Kerevi powered through the line and served up a delightful offload on the inside to Feauai-Sautia to complete the movement and score. 14-0
Finally one of the Sharks decision to kick for touch paid off and they were able to score a try through their hooker Kerron van Vuuren from a driving maul 5m out. Reds 14-7
The Sharks really blew their chances. While the Reds only really had two chances (perhaps one other when Naivalu dropped a simple pass with some space in front), the Sharks were in the position to score a handful of tries that poor handling denied them.
The Sharks will feel they should have had the lead considering they forwent about 9 points through neglected shots at goal, and at least three try scoring opportunities through dropped ball. The Reds’ defence was well organised and they were a lot more clinical with the limited ball they had.
The Second Half Synopsis
The second half started with a sustained period of some good hard rugby. Both teams were throwing everything they had at the opposition and the respective defence was throwing it back. The Reds probably had the best of the first 10 minutes, with some more Sharks dropsies, but the points weren’t flowing their way.
The flowed soon after, through one of their best tries of the season. Once again that man Kerevi started things but interchanges between Jock Campbell, CFS, Hegarty, McDermott and Higginbotham lead to McDermott backing up to dart over for a valuable try that stretched the lead to 14 points (21-7) with less than 20 minutes to go.
The try received a bonus lift immediately after when it looked like the Sharks would get in again. Hot on attack and with the Reds’ backs seemingly dropping like flies, the visitors delivered some gutsy defence under immense pressure. This time the Sharks wouldn’t drop the ball and foil the play, it would just be some effective Queensland tackling that would do the job.
The Sharks scored the only try in the second half, off the back of a 5m scrum with just minutes to go, but it wasn’t necessarily bad rugby. No in fact, the Sharks were pretty terrible. Their handling remained below standard all match and it was notable their only two tries were from forwards rumbling over from close range.
The Reds will be thrilled with their win – their first away against the Sharks since that epic 6-5 win in 2004. While the Sharks weren’t at their best, the Reds were a big improvement on last week and any win in South Africa is worth celebrating. The Reds now have a week off, which seems well times, while the poor Sharks must pack up and head off to Sydney where they will take on the Waratahs at the new Western Sydney Stadium.
The Game Changer
The period of defence by the Reds just after McDermott’s try was significant but I am going to say it was the bizarre decisions by the Sharks to ignore shots at goal early on. They should have taken the easy points when they could have. The Reds seemed to love the challenge of holding them out.
The G&GR MOTM
Tough bloody ask this one. I was really wanting to give it to Harry Hoopert who was bloody good in his starting debut against a Springbok 20 kg heavier and 10 years older. Samu Kerevi was obviously very good too and there were plenty of support crew. But the Player of the Match goes to Liam Wright who played it tough and pulled off two key plays late in the game to secure the victory.
The position I am most unsure about at the moment for the Wallabies is probably outside centre. Chris Feauai-Sautia is probably a darkhorse for the spot but he would have to be a candidate. He seems frustratingly lazy at times but he is a super talent and is forming a good combination with Kerevi. Why couldn’t he do it at the test level?
Score & Scorers
Tries: Kerron van Vuuren 25’, Jean-Luz du Preez 79’
Conversions: Robert du Preez 26’, Curwin Bosch 80’
Tries: Bryce Hegarty 2’, Chris Feauai-Sautia 20’, Tate McDermott 59’
Conversions: Bryce Hegarty 2’, 21’, Hamish Stewart 60’