Ryan Smith

It was another close match-up last night in Week 12 of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific at Suncorp Stadium. Queensland Reds fired off as always in the first-half where they just held on a two-point lead at half-time, 12-10. But it’s the Highlanders, who overcame two yellow cards earlier on to a sensational comeback in the last 40-45 mins, that puts them back in the Playoffs bubble in 8th after their 19-27 win.

Queensland need to work on their 2nd half spell where the momentum just wasn’t the same as the 1st half; it’s has always been the case since they first faced NZ teams back in Week 10 v Hurricanes. They came from a long way when the Reds had to deal with injuries from James O’Connor, Hunter Paisami & now Taniela Tupou. And they managed to cope for half the time without them on the field, thanks to the team spirit installed by head coach Brad Thorn. It’s maybe some inexperienced players need on their toes when it comes to the 2nd half run, where the result may be different if JOC, Paisami & Tupou weren’t injured. However, these players can improve without their main men if they’re able to put on a full show, that will define the Reds’ position on the ladder with three regular games left.

And the Hurricanes may not have a great first 30-35 mins where they not only lost one but two men via the yellow card, as the Reds took control at the time. But they were back up and running though when it comes to playing a full XV, as well as a few changes off the bench that changed everything. The brilliant work from their forward pack made the backline’s life easier to execute, thanks to the Reds finishing weaknesses when the opposition’s fired off momentum began to falter. Then some fresh legs from Folau Fakatava competed the Highlanders comeback, where he was sensational with a TRY back pass assist to Scott Gregory followed by a TRY himself. And that is match-winning quality from the replacement half-back, who came on for Aaron Smith in the 55th minute.

The Highlanders will kick off Week 13 at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin next Friday when they welcome the Western Force from Perth. Meanwhile, the Reds will need to group their team spirit together for the full 80, if they want to shock the Blues at Eden Park next Saturday in Auckland.

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Great to see the long-running New South Wales v Queensland rivalry return for another year last night, even with the wet conditions that went extra competitive while playing through the rain. Both teams were level at the break (10-10) after a close first 40 with one TRY and penalty goal apiece, but it’s the Reds who ran away in the end with another win by a narrow four-point buffer (16-20) at Leichardt Oval.

The Reds fired off very well with the early head start thanks to Jordan Petaia with the TRY & James O’Connor for the kicking and assist to Petaia, having shown patience when they had the ball in hand. Although they were tested with the scrum at times that led to lost points over to the Tahs’, the away team though managed to come out unscathed. We love how they took care of the ball with excellent planning and communication thanks to the Tahs’ mistakes in the 2nd half, which eventually gave sub-back rower Ryan Smith a way to get past the Tahs’ through the gate down low. Excellent teamwork by the Reds’ players and their use of substitutions that got the best out of ways to win games by their head coach, Brad Thorn.

Meanwhile, the Tahs’ responded well to the Reds’ early start when exposing the opposition’s weaknesses in defense, which has helped them level at half-time, 10-10. The scrum looks spot on with or without the ball feed, where Will Harris successfully converted into a TRY during the first-half at No.8 alongside some winning penalties. However, they were just unlucky not to hold them off until the end, not to blame Ben Donaldson’s brilliant kicking into the goal posts at fly-half. A few mistakes made in the 2nd half with a poor line-out, isolated executions, and defense eventually cost them by a narrow four-point margin.

The Reds will now travel to HBF Park in Perth next Friday at 7 pm local time/10 pm AEDT where they will face the Western Force, while the Waratahs will have their first away game of 2022 next Saturday night v ACT Brumbies at GIO Stadium in Canberra.

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In another week running of the new Super Rugby season, the Queensland Reds were blessed to have co-skipper James O’Connor by their side at first five-eighth. He always used the best of these penalties, especially with the successful kicks into the goal. And that cross-kick assist towards Jordan Petaia for the five-point score during the first-half is unbelievable, thanks to the communication built by the Reds’ forward line so JOC can unleash his magic.

Next up, Ryan Smith has to be the game-changer here off the bench for Angus Scott-Young on the blindside, which gave the Reds some fresh legs to help themselves get past the Waratahs in the end. He has a very clear vision to unpack even with a bit of space thanks to his tall build at almost two meters. With Ryan on board, the Reds needed his help in a bid to dismantle a pack of Tahs’ defenders past the TRY line when they felt so 1-2 meters short, before he dived in down low and grounded the ball first that turned out to be the game-winning score.

All in all, JOC started and finished the game for the Reds in style under the rain, while Smith made a huge difference later in the 2nd half that helped the Reds pull off what they desperately needed in 1st place (16-20).

And the Tahs may be gutted with the narrow loss last night, but one player who stood out is Will Harris at Number 8. He had an outstanding first-half run that puts the Tahs on level with the Reds at half-time (10-10), when not only did he collect a TRY himself via the scrum feed, but he also kept a close eye on the Reds and held them down defensively when the opposition lacked numbers. We love how he outsmarted Reds’ half-back, Tate McDermott, when he pulled the trigger once the Tahs’ stayed square & finished off against Angus Scott-Young past the touch line. Unfortunately, the Tahs made a couple of messy mistakes towards the end. Not only did it isolate their finishing opportunities with the ball, but it also exposed their defense before James O’Connor kicked the ball into touch after the 80th minute and it’s too late.

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