Reds want to spoil Rebels’ finals party
DERAILING the bold finals bid of the Melbourne Rebels is the only impact on Super Rugby left for a Reds side which is now fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.
Skipper Scott Higginbotham and his Queensland players must squeeze everything from dented pride to stand up to the Rebels at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
The Reds' record in local derbies this season would be rated awful (1-4) but for it merely continuing the abysmal trend of 2017 (2-4) and 2016 (0-6).
The Reds' five-match losing spiral has been magnified by Japan's Sunwolves winning three of their past five games, including Saturday's try-filled 42-37 upset of the Bulls in Singapore.
The Reds (19 points) need to fire against the Rebels if only to rule out the ignominy of hosting the last-placed Sunwolves (14) in a spoon-decider on Friday week.
Chilly seven degree temperatures and a slippery, wet surface can't explain away how bad the Reds were when blundering to a 39-16 loss to the Blues in Auckland last Friday night.
Replacement halfback Tate McDermott was the single shining light in the backs with the sharp pass from the ruckbase in the lead-up to the Duncan Paia'aua try and several smart dashes.
His display has put selection pressure on starter Moses Sorovi after his poor handling of the first half.
Hamish Stewart and Jono Lance also both need to shake off their errors to better show the way as playmakers.
The eighth-placed Rebels produced an excellent display to lead the finals-bound NSW Waratahs 26-17 before a late Bernard Foley intercept try scuttled them 31-26 in Melbourne.
The halftime rev-up for the Rebels pack should indicate where the Reds need to be ready on Friday.
"At halftime, big, violent ball-carries was one of the things we stressed and guys like (lock) Matt Philip (20 runs for 96m) did for us," Rebels skipper Tom English said.
The Rebels (35) hold the final spot in the play-offs, for now, but must stay ahead of the Sharks (32) and a Brumbies side (29) invigorated by a superb 24-12 upset of the Hurricanes.
Fullback Tom Banks, hooker Folau Fainga'a, unheralded winger Andy Muirhead, lock Rory Arnold and cool fly half Christian Lealiifano all stood tall for the Brumbies.
There were high moments for Queensland players over the weekend, just not for the Reds.
Townsville's Josh Fletcher contributed the final 10 points as Queensland Country toppled NSW Country 22-12 in Goondiwindi.
At Chipsy Wood Oval, former Wallaby Quade Cooper returned from knee trouble with two tries in Souths' 38-31 win over Wests for a rollicking old boys' day crowd.
In Apia, a hat-trick of tries from former Wests winger Ed Fidow propelled Samoa to a 66-15 win over Germany to all but book a spot in Pool A at next year's World Cup.
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