The 18-year-old will miss at least four months of rugby with a Lisfranc ligament tear in his left foot, suffered in the 15th minute of the Reds’ loss on Saturday to the Crusaders. His lower leg was crushed awkwardly on his first carry.
Petaia had breathed hope into the Reds’ season with a powerful performance a week earlier in Dunedin.
But the rebuilding club, sitting at 0-2 for the season, heard the news late on Sunday night of the worst-case scenario.
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With a last-minute injury dashing his Wallabies debut last year, Petaia’s latest setback has him at long odds to feature in Michael Cheika’s squad in September in Japan.
The same innocuous injury resulted lengthy sideline stints for former Reds, James Horwill, Sam Cordingley and Jake Schatz, while Brisbane AFL player Charlie Cameron also had his 20 18 season ended in the same manner.
“He looked a bit ginger … it wasn’t great losing him early,” coach Brad Thorn said after the game, before hearing the scan results.
“He’s a great young talent, a disappointing night for him.”
Fullback Bryce Hegarty, who played on despite popping a rib, was used often as first receiver to relieve the pressure on five-eighth Hamish Stewart.
Too often they gifted the Crusaders pressure-free possession though, Thorn admitting their kicking game remained a work in progress.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson praised the Reds’ toughness, saying there was a “new feel” about them.
“We’ll all probably answer that question better (how much have they improved) in about six weeks, once they’ve got a few more games under their belts,” he said.
“They’ve got a toug h start, got quite a tough draw.
“But some good signs, good energy and they worked hard.”
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