Reds’ big injury blow as Crusaders dish out lesson
THE rattled Reds have copped a brutal lesson in the precision and winning confidence at the elite end of Super Rugby when the Crusaders stormed Suncorp Stadium.
"Their Jordan" even won a clear points decision because boom Queensland colt Jordan Petaia limped off after just 15 minutes with a sprained left foot.
The winning team was never really in doubt but the 22-12 scoreline did reflect how hard the Reds scrapped for a late Scott Higginbotham consolation try down the blindside.
Young Crusaders fullback Will Jordan, All Blacks centre Jack Goodhue and a superior scrum were impressive in a display of the best style of silky Kiwi handling and rugby smarts.
"It's the second time a side has put a lead (10-0) on us early and it was one-way traffic for a while but the guys didn't fall to pieces," coach Brad Thorn said.
"We worked away, some opportunities came back our way and we got a lot of positives (with) defence being one.
"You hold onto the footy and things can happen but we turned it over too quickly."
The Reds were their own worst enemies.
Too much uncontested kicking was the blight of the opening 35 minutes while bungled lineouts, rushed passes and dropped ball never allowed the strong attitude of the Reds to show fully on the scoreboard.
Skipper Samu Kerevi crossed for a try just before half-time to close it to 10-7 as reward for knocking back a shot at penalty goal.
The Blues, Hurricanes, Highlanders and Chiefs may all have shown chinks this season but the relentless Crusaders have started 3-0 with such command they are clear favourites for a third straight title.
The Reds could start practising daily, without disruption, until 2022 and not produce the stunning flow of the two Crusaders tries that had the crowd of 17,676 in awe in the first half.
First, there was a 10-phase build-up of superb short passing, off loads, precision handling and Goodhue's cross-kick to unmarked winger Braydon Ennor.
From the restart, there was another for 10-0 with Goodhue and his mullet again prominent as he breezed by defender Hamish Stewart. Over 70m, Jordan looked all class until scoring with his second touch in the move.
It was a three-minute master class. In the second half, the Crusaders pack generated two more tries from clinical lineout drives to make sure the Crusaders extended their winning streak to 18 matches.
Centre Petaia was cruelly cut down when his left foot was trapped under his body in a Crusaders tackle with no chance to replicate his five-star game against the Highlanders a week earlier.
He will be battling to be fit to face the NSW Waratahs in Saturday's interstate clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Reds experimented with a change-up because fullback Bryce Hegarty largely ran the attack from the No. 10 slot rather than Hamish Stewart.
Hegarty showed his character by playing the second half with a popped rib.
The All Blacks-laden Crusaders tight five claimed a rare scrummaging victory over the Reds.
Tough calls went against the Reds with a fine late Liam Wright try disallowed because a JP Smith fingertip had been found to obstruct a Crusaders halfback to help create the hole.
Halfbacks Moses Sorovi and Tate McDermott were involved in some of the Reds best play and Kerevi made the two biggest Queensland runs of the night.
CRUSADERS 22 (W Jordan, B Ennor, W Douglas, J Taufua tries; R Mo'unga conv) bt REDS 12 (S Kerevi try; B Hegarty conv)
FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1 You're a chance to apply pressure with good, contestable kicking but when Hamish Stewart hoofs a high ball with no chasers at the 30-minute mark you are gifting ball to the best counter-attackers in the competition. Hold the ball. Kicking game: C again.
2 In-form skipper Samu Kerevi is backing attack. At 10-0 down, he could have grabbed a relieving three-pointer before half-time but the crowd roared their support for a penalty kick to touch. Better still, the clinical lineout and drives to follow earned him a try.
3 The Reds are trying to change-up their playmakers. The more experienced Bryce Hegarty ran things from No,10 most often, Stewart played the second playmaker. "The Kid" Isaac Lucas is going to see more ball in his hands in his role as a replacement as the season goes on.
4 The Reds defence has improved. They resisted for 21 phases of desperate defence against the Crusaders early in the second half. The Crusaders flung several balls into touch or to no-one with the Reds applying pressure.
5 The Reds are missing an out-and-out ball pilferer. With flanker George Smith having moved on, it is a gap because a pilfer turns around momentum so well. Prop JP Smith earned a forced penalty at the breakdown late.