Reds falter against Jaguares for third straight loss
THE faltering Queensland Reds gave up a 17-point lead when overrun by a supercharged Jaguares comeback in Buenos Aires on Sunday morning.
Poor discipline converted to a landslide 13-3 penalty count and even the starchy Reds defence could not scramble to cover the late sin-binning of skipper Liam Wright.
The Jaguares scored three tries in the 10 minutes that Wright was off the field for a 43-27 win after the Reds had produced their best rugby of the season to lead 24-7 just before halftime.
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For the third time in as many games this season, the Reds led at the 55-minute mark only to lose their way.
All the momentum was with the home side in front of their roaring fans even though the Reds still led 27-22 when Wright was ejected for repeated team infringements at the 62-minute mark.
He had been penalised for a high tackle just minutes earlier which looked to be a chest high cover tackle to shut down a break.
When he contested for the ball minutes later, Argentinian referee Federico Anselmi found an offence and flashed the yellow card at Wright.
From the next play, a rumbling, unstoppable Jaguares maul from a 5m lineout powered hooker Julian Montoya over to grab the lead 29-27.
The Jaguares scored four of their six tries from mauls ignited off lineout drives, including a hat-trick to Montoya.
"We were simply outclassed. They were really, really good (in the second half) and we lost our primary sources of go-forward attacking ball at the scrum and lineout," Wright said.
"Obviously, our maul defence was poor and we have to fix that.
"If we can put two halves together like our first half, there'll be no stopping us."
Unfortunately, the Reds were again their own worst enemies to open the second half when striving to build momentum again with a 24-12 lead.
They lost the opening lineout of the second half and centre Hamish Stewart copped a dubious penalty for a mild seatbelt tackle that was not the high tackle that the referee whistled.
The Jaguares marched down the field and had a strikeback try within three minutes of the second half.
A Taniela Tupou dropped pass and a second lineout bungle chiselled away at the Reds' control of the ball as well.
The second half eroded all the great work of the opening 40 minutes when flyhalf James O'Connor, fullback Jock Campbell, winger Henry Speight, Wright and new outside centre Hunter Paisami were excellent and smacking defence was the standard.
Just 10 minutes into the game, O'Connor stepped off his right foot, beat a defender and unloaded a fine one-handed off-load to put halfback Tate McDermott over for a try.
It was 14-0 when the Reds produced a potent short-side raid. Campbell put flanker Lukhan Salakaia-Loto into a hole and linking passes through Tupou and Henry Speight kept things rolling.
Wright finished it off.
It was 19-7 after 28 minutes when Tupou's strong scrummaging on the tighthead side set up a strong chance to the right.
Campbell again joined the line and winger Chris Feauai-Sautia scored.
Feauai-Sautia was impressive in his first game of the season and scored again after Paisami had done the lead-up working by bumping by a Jaguares prop in a typically forceful run.
O'Connor threw several neat long balls to Speight, distributed nicely and his footwork in tight spaces always made an extra metre or two.
Paisami made 11 runs for 71m as a fine replacement for injured Jordan Petaia and a neat left-foot grubber kick was one of the few acts that kept the pressure on the Jaguares in the second half.
It set up a fine 5m scrum position but the Reds made nothing of it even when marching it a stride forward.
No. 8 Harry Wilson didn't control the ball at the back of the scrum as well as he could have, O'Connor ended up with the ball in less than ideal shape and darted and twisted towards the line.
In a show of fine sportsmanship, O'Connor told referee Anselmi he hadn't grounded the ball which video replays showed had been knocked out of his hands as he went to plant it.
Tupou looked to have made up for the missed chance when he buckled the Jaguares' loosehead prop on the ensuing scrum.
Instead of rewarding Tupou's clear dominance, Anselmi gave a dubious scrum penalty to the Jaguares and the points chance was lost.