The Rebels overcame the Reds in their first home win of the season but James Horwill’s red card at the 20th minute changed the match.
The Queensland Reds can blame nobody but themselves for their sixth loss of the season, they started dominating, went nine points ahead in the first 20 minutes, but then gave it all away when James Horwill got his second red card of the season.
To add to the loss of a player from a red card, the Reds lost Quade Cooper again—to a shoulder injury.
The Rebels struggled to convert possession into points again but Sefanaia Naivalu sealed the win with a showcase try.
The Reds started the game well, with open, fast play, determination at the breakdown and quick ball all around the park.
In the sixth minute Horwill crossed for the first try for the visitors after a long patient series of phases, and Cooper, now recovered from injury, slotted the conversion for the Reds to lead 7-0.
Five minutes later former Red, Mike Harris, got three points back for the home side after Liam Gill got pinged at a ruck.
But the Red’s flanker, back in the side after a two-week suspension for a dangerous throw on Nic White, redeemed himself when he broke a Nic Stirzacker tackle and passed inside for his no. 8 Jake Schatz to score the visitors’ second try. Cooper’s conversion attempt was not successful and Queensland led 12-3 at 14 minutes.
The Reds were close to their third try within the first quarter of the game when Chris Feauai-Sautia kicked through; but Naivalu got the right body position to field the bouncing ball near his goal line, and was able to run up field with it.
At the 20th minute Horwill was red-carded for a swinging arm on Rebels prop Paul Alo-Emile and that was the turning point of the game.
The game changer
The Rebels pulled a try back in the 22nd minute when lock Lopeti Timani went over the line after a driving maul from a lineout. Harris was on target with the conversion and the Rebels were within two points of the Reds, 10-12.
“Super Sefa” Naivalu showed his speed, tackling former Rebel James O’Connor five meters before the home team’s goal line after the visitors had covered the whole field following a turnover. There was no sympathy from the home crowd for the troubled former Rebels’ flyhalf.
At the 29th minute Cooper slotted an easy penalty, but the Reds defence could not hold the Rebels two minutes later when Jack Debreczini gave a sweet ball to Harris who was stopped five metres out. Stirzaker quickly recycled the pill and former All Black Tamati Ellison give a golden ball to Tom English on the right wing for an easy try.
Harris missed the conversion and the game was tied at 15-all.
The result held to the end of the first half, because of two bad penalty goal misses from Cooper, who was cheered by the parochial AAMI Park crowd for his efforts.
Half-time score Rebels 15 – Reds 15
English – tackled here but scored second Rebels’ try
The Rebels started the second stanza of the game with a sense of urgency and put pressure on the 14-man Reds from the very beginning, but the Reds’ defence held out the attacks for almost half an hour.
At this point Naivalu was the most dangerous back for the Rebels with three runs on his left wing that tested the defensive skills of the visitors.
In the the 55th minute the Rebels looked like they had breached the solid defence of the Reds but Jordy Reid’s first-ever Super Rugby try was called back after an earlier forward pass from Toby Smith to Naivalu.
In that passage of play Cooper went down injured, again to his right shoulder.
But the Reds defence could not hold the Rebels out forever and at the 66th minute the home team launched a beautiful move down the left side of the field. After the ball was passed several times Naivalu ran diagonally for the posts to attract defenders, then passed inside for Nic Stirzaker to score.
It was the first score for over half an hour; again Harris could not add the extras but the home team now had a five-point advantage 20-15.
Harris kicked an easy penalty goal for the Rebels in the 71st minute to put the Reds behind by two scores 23-15.
Karmichael Hunt made his return in the 68th minute after the well-known allegations, but he was not able to put his mark on the game.
Final score: Rebels 23 – Reds 15
Nic Stirzacker scores clinching try
The Wrap Up
The Rebels won their second Aussie derby of the season in a grueling match where they enjoyed a huge advantage after Horwill’s red card. Nevertheless their first win of the season on home soil came only after a hard battle for Tony McGahan’s players. The coach would have wanted a bonus point try but he would take away several positives from the match.
The Reds showed a lot of composure and improvement in their game and shall build on the dominant first 20 minutes and also the courageous defence in the remaining 60 in their South African tour.
At the end of the match the win didn’t put smiles on the faces of coach McGahan and captain Higginbotham, both reflecting on the lost opportunities and the difficulties to put points on the scoreboard.
Richard Graham, visibly upset for the loss, was still eager to praise his players for the courage and the cohesion one man down.
“Pleased to get a result tonight, we’ve been very close for the last three games, we are disappointed that we weren’t ruthless enough to get the bonus point try. The Reds played very well one man down.
We came against a very experienced team, Nic (Stirzaker) and Jack (Debreczeni) have played 25 games between them, Genia 150 and Cooper 101 – this says a lot. ”
“Disappointed for the playing group, but immensely proud of their effort. Up to the 71st minute our effort was outstanding. The players demonstrated how much they care for the group: the talk at half time was outstanding: they stood up as a group, they made no excuses.
The effort in the first twenty minutes was also outstanding: we did all the things we said we would do at the beginning of the season.”
Sefanaia Naivalu – man of the match
The Game Changer
Horwill’s red card in the 20th minute was the defining moment of the game. The Reds lost all their confidence and flair after they lost the former captain for a swinging arm against Paul Alo-Emile.
Despite their efforts in defence they where not able to hold onto the Rebels.
The G&GR MOTM
Sefanaia Naivalu had a fine game on the left wing: he was key in saving two tries in the first half and in creating the Stirzaker try.
It’s a big leap forward from the Box Hill Broncos in the Dewar Shield last year. He is not eligible for the Wallabies at the World Cup, but will he play for Fiji?
Cheika will look at Horwill’s self-destructing trend.
Gill and Schatz were solid in the Red’s backrow; also McMahon for the Rebels.
After the RWC young guns Stirzaker and Debreczeni can aspire to be Wallabies, given the predicted flood of senior players moving overseas.
Score & Scorers
Rebels 23 (15)
Tries: L. Timani 22′, T. English 31′, N. Stirzaker 66′
Conversions: M. Harris 1/3
Penalties: M. Harris (12′, 71′)
Reds 15 (15)
Tries: J. Horwill (5), J. Schatz (14)
Conversions: Q. Cooper 1/2
Penalties: Q. Cooper (29′)
Cards & citings
J. Horwill (20′)