Reds buckle early as Kiwi stranglehold continues
THE Reds started with enough big-name artillery to beat the Chiefs on Saturday night but Tony Shaw and Paul McLean are now both in their 60s, Sam Scott-Young threw his last meaningful punch in the 1990s and barrel-chested Dick Cocks did his crunching in the 1970s.
The pre-game honour guard of 40 Queensland rugby legends was by far the best thing about the Reds in the opening 30 minutes when the Chiefs ran riot 24-0 at Suncorp Stadium.
Brad Thorn's Reds of 2018 had not encountered anything like the pace, quick ruck ball and fluency in attack that floored and flustered them when the match was decided in that period.
When they did decide that dumb kicking, Aidan Toua passing into touch and forgetting the inside pass were a road to further ruin, the final 50 minutes became much more of a contest.
The final 36-12 scoreline was still a brutal reality check on just how big the gulf still is between the Kiwi Super Rugby sides and the Aussie opponents they have now beaten 35 times in a row over the past two years.
The Chiefs kept much of their potency even when key All Blacks spark Damian McKenzie was off the field for the final hour after a head knock assessment.
The Reds actually "drew" the final 50 minutes 12-all. It may seem totally irrelevant but it did reflect the Queenslanders finally getting their hands on some ball, centre Samu Kerevi's influential running for two tries and some fight.
Turning it into more of a scrap was cheered by the small crowd of 14,002 but more importantly it was some starch to remember in the 1000th game played by Queensland's rugby team.
The quick handling by the Chiefs amplified the lack of deception to the Reds' passing and it was criminal that wing weapon Izaia Perese was again wasted.
Coach Thorn can no longer justify leaving the silky passing of centre-flyhalf Duncan Paia'aua off the bench.
As combative as starting halfback Ben Lucas was, replacement half Moses Sorovi was a metre quicker to the ruck base and it made a difference in the final 20 minutes.
No.8 Caleb Timu had his moments and one barging run after a lineout win almost produced another second half try but he lost the ball as he extended to plant it against the upright's padding.
It also came after he was floored by a crunching front-on tackle by Chiefs centre Johnny Fa'auli as big as just about any in those 1000 games.
Kerevi never stops trying for the Reds and was again the talisman for this side after Thorn admitted his side lacked composure early.
Wallabies great George Smith played the final 37 minutes. He was a little underdone and dropped one pass but he will be back in the groove at flanker soon enough after his first match at this intensity in four months because of back surgery.
There was plenty of sting to the Reds' tackling when they caught a Chiefs attacker with Taniela Tupou's hit on winger Sean Wainui and Jono lance's fine trysaver on winger Solomon Alaimalo both standout efforts.
Credit to the Chiefs. Brodie Retallick reminded everyone again that he is the world's top lock with his skills and a bullocking try while All Blacks flanker Sam Cane involved himself with short passes, targeted breakdown involvements and general work to elevate his pack.
Even in his short time on the field, McKenzie put fullback Charlie Ngatai over with a pinpoint pass.
Thorn lamentd the disasterousd opening stanza to the game.
"That first half hour was highly disappointing...you can't make those errors and even if you are under the pump you have to be hard minded, " Thorn said.
"We were a bit rattled early and it was just tough to watch.
"We battled away in the second half and showed something because the crowd stayed to the end.
"She's a bumpy old ride but I do take out the encouraging points...Moses Sorovi hadn't played at all in seven games and he was accurate at halfback (as a replacement) and Jordie Petaia ripped in at just 18 (from the wing)."
Chiefs coach Colin Cooper revealed that McKenzie had been cleared to return to the field but considered him too valuable to risk.
"He's angry we dragged him but he's a special one so we still pulled him (off) because he was dazed," Cooper said.
"We knew the Reds would be a dangerous team and at times they showed that.
"There's a lot of physicality to a Brad Thorn side. You could see it and they just need time under him. That and his leaders to come through."
Chiefs 36 (T Ardron, B Retallick, C Ngatai, L Polwart, S Taukei'aho tries; D McKenzie 2 con, pen goal, M McKenzie 2 con) bt Reds 12 (S Kerevi 2 tries; J Lance con)
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