The Queensland Reds’ missed opportunities are putting Liam Wright’s leadership qualities to the test but the first-year captain is holding firm ahead of one of Super Rugby’s most daunting assignments.

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All four Reds losses this season have come despite them holding second-half leads, with Saturday’s 33-23 defeat at home to the Sharks another jarring blow for a side optimistic of playing finals.

They meet the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday, Super Rugby’s three-time defending champions fresh from a bye and fuelled by national pride after the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels notched wins in New Zealand in the past fortnight.

The Reds (1-4 with seven competition points) missed a chance to draw within striking distance of the Brumbies (3-1 and 13 points) and acknowledge few give them a chance of continuing Australia’s rare and recent run of success across the Tasman.

“We were reeling a bit; it was another game we led at half time we could have taken and had plenty of opportunities we let slip and makes it tough going into a game against the defending champs,” 22-year-old Wright said.

“I saw a little thing on the internet that Australia hasn’t lost to New Zealand in 14 days or something … obviously our job’s pretty hard but it’s one we’ll make sure we’re up to.

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“The way we respond to this will be big, not just in terms of wins-losses but the way we conduct ourselves, especially on the training paddock and I’m going to make sure the boys respond well during the week.”

The Reds’ rolling maul, in defence and attack, has struggled while their line-out and scrum was also exploited by the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium.

It left Wright short on options when awarded penalties but aside from some basic skill errors, he said their blueprint was a winning one.

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“Our group’s still very tight. We know what we’re capable of and that our systems work,” he said.

“It’s tough stuff but we’re still well within the fight and haven’t played many games against teams within our conference … so we can still get into the finals picture that way as well.”

James O’Connor (ankle) and Harry Wilson (head knock) were casualties on Saturday and are a chance of staying home this weekend despite the club’s confidence neither face an extended stint on the sideline.

Reds captain Liam Wright ahead of match against the Crusaders:

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