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Highlanders shutout: Reds starting to ‘deal with’ hype and expectation

By Finn Morton
Reds celebrate a Suliasi Vunivalu try after the final siren during the round nine Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and Highlanders at Suncorp Stadium, on April 19, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

The Queensland Reds put a “frustrating few weeks” behind them with a dominant 31-nil win over the Highlanders in Brisbane on Friday. It was the Reds’ first shutout win in Super Rugby since before the new millennium.

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Following a run of disappointing defeats to the Western Force, Brumbies and Moana Pasifika, the Reds got their Super Rugby Pacific campaign back on track with one of the best performances by any team this season.

Queensland struck first through Wallabies centre Hunter Paisami after just two minutes, but little did rugby fans either at Suncorp Stadium or at home watching on TV know that that was just the start of a historic win.

Match Summary

1
Penalty Goals
0
4
Tries
0
4
Conversions
0
0
Drop Goals
0
112
Carries
152
6
Line Breaks
2
13
Turnovers Lost
12
8
Turnovers Won
4

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Milestone man Ryan Smith, replacement Lawson Creighton and Wallaby Suliasi Vunivalu all added to the score as the Queenslanders registered a bonus point win which keeps them inside the top eight for at least another two weeks.

“I’ve been saying it for years, they just don’t have enough talent for five teams,” former Wallaby Stephen Hoiles quipped on Stan Sports’ Between Two Posts.

“It was a great turnaround from the Reds. They’ve had a frustrating few weeks after jumping out of the blocks earlier in the season.

“Probably starting to deal with the expectations that they had on their shoulders and rightly so, they played some really good footy in the first few weeks.

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“The scoreline probably doesn’t reflect the game to be fair. It wasn’t the prettiest of games. They were the better side easily but I didn’t think it was going to be 31-nil.”

Looking at the scoreboard alone, there’s a lot to like about the 31 points the Reds put on their New Zealand opponents. It’s the sign of a team that have genuine depth and quality across the board.

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When you consider the Reds were missing Wallabies duo Tate McDermott and Fraser McReight through suspension, and that Seru Uru and Josh Flook were out injured, those 31 points are that much more impressive from the Queenslanders.

But if defence wins championships, as the old sports adage goes, then the zero in the Highlanders’ column is the big talking point.

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The Reds’ defensive wall was impenetrable, as fullback Jock Campbell showed in the first half. Connor Garden-Bachop attempted a chip and chase to get the Highlanders on the board, but Campbell got back, made the tackle, and won a penalty at the breakdown as well.

That was a moment of brilliance that would’ve impressed coach Les Kiss.

“What was good (was) the desperation of the Reds defence,” former Australia international Morgan Turinui explained.

“The Highlanders had their shots, I think it was pretty even 22-entires until about the 60 minute mark and the Highlanders’ in the second-half especially had a mountain of possession.

“When you look at it, when you say no Tate (McDermott), no Fraser (McReight), no (Josh) Flook, no (Seru) Uru.. they lose (Jordan) Petaia early which is a blow.

“They found a way to really dominate the game.

“Once again it says a lot about the Highlanders this season. We’ve now worked out where we’re at.”

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