On March 14th, Queensland defeated the top of the table Sharks 25-13 in an awesome display. Their loss to the Lions tonight was a polar opposite display of rugby nous.
Phil Mooney looked as if someone had died in his post match interview. For all intents and purposes, not only has the Reds season passed away, but they now stare at the real possibility of their sixth consecutive bottom three finish.
With matches against the Blues, Brumbies, Crusaders and Hurricanes to finish their season—all legitimate title contenders—the reality is that Queensland will likely finish with their second wooden spoon in three years.
It is a damning statistic for a mighty rugby state that in 1980 they defeated the All Blacks, then won the back to back Super 10 titles (the predecessor competition for Super 12/14) in 1994/95 and finished the regular season of the inaugural Super 12 in first place.
It was a Lions side that limped into Brisbane. They were debilitated with injuries, foremost amongst these the loss of World Cup winning centre Jacque Fourie. But their position on the table belied the latent ability in the South African side.
They had defeated the Brumbies 25-17, and had recorded respectable losses against the Hurricanes and Chiefs. Against the latter, they had actually led the Waikato based team by 19 before capitulating in the fourth quarter.
Queensland was looking at the game as redemption.
They lost their first two games to the Bulls and Stormers in South Africa; the latter being a narrow three point loss at the fortress of Newlands. They then smashed the Cheetahs 22-3, before losing to last year’s finalists NSW by only four, and then pulling off a huge upset downing the reigning Currie Cup champion Sharks in Brisbane.
That is a reading that indicates a quality side.
But since then, heavy losses have followed to the Chiefs and Force, both by well over 20 points. This then followed to a loss to the Highlanders, who, despite an excellent midseason remain the worst New Zealand team.
There was nothing at Suncorp Stadium that indicated any quality whatsoever.
The Reds, despite having four capped Wallabies in their backline looked so rudderless in attack that the stadium of over 15,000 was heard to groan more than cheer.
Their pack, half capped international players and containing an All Black hit the rucks with no intensity and never were marshalled in the manner indicative of a senior representative pack.
Effectively their performance was so poor that they made the Lions looked like a Springbok team.
With not even 40 percent possession, the Lions won by enough to deny the Reds even a losing bonus point.
Even with the Lions down to 13 men for nearly nine minutes after suffering two consecutive sin-binnings, the Reds could never make their two man superiority count.
The Lions will not get carried away by such a performance. Any review will show that the Reds were quite simply non performers. It was a display that would have struggled to put away an age grade side.
For the Reds, they will have a lot to answer for. A fair number of Queenslanders were represented at Suncorp Stadium tonight and would have gone home with a very bitter taste in their mouths.
In the next four weeks they will play against three teams who between them wield no less than 12 Super rugby titles. The fourth, the Hurricanes, wield no titles but have four semifinal appearances in the last six years.
The Reds face a horrific month to their end of season review—which on tonight’s account, will be damning indeed.
Tries:Genia, Higginbotham, Cooper
Tries:Mentz 3, Joubert
Yellow cards:Kruger (56 min), Van Zyl ( 58 min)