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Reds v Highlanders: Reds trio deserve Wallabies call-up, Highlanders rival Crusaders

By Finn Morton
Lawson Creighton of the Reds celebrates with team mates after scoring a try 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 have got their season back on track with an utterly dominant 31-nil win over the Highlanders at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

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For both teams, this match had a bit of a finals feel to it. While there are still almost two months between now and the playoffs, this seemed like an important match for the Reds and Highlanders alike.

Queensland had lost three on the bounce before this clash, while the Highlanders had also been beaten in their last four. With the Super Rugby Pacific season passing its halfway point, the significance speaks for itself.

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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The Reds took control with tries to Hunter Paisami and Ryan Smith during the first half, and the second term was more than same as the Highlanders struggled to really fire a shot at the world-famous rugby venue.

Here are some takeaways from the Reds’ bonus point win over the Highlanders.

No McReight + McDermott = No McWorries for Reds

The Stan Sport broadcast panned to some Reds players in the stands during the first half. James O’Connor was there, as was young gun Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, but two men stole the show after being ruled out of this match.

O’Connor, who is still yet to take the field this season due to a hamstring injury, pointed towards Fraser McReight and Tate McDermott as the cameras began to linger. Both men have been ruled out for a series of matches after being sent off last week.

McReight is expected to miss two matches while the blazer-wearing McDermott has been suspended for three. The absence of the Wallabies duo leaves a big hole in this Queensland Reds side.

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Without both men, other players had to stand up against the Highlanders. It has to be said that a talented trio didn’t just do that, they went above and beyond. Ryan Smith, Liam Wright and Hunter Paisami have all proven themselves worthy of an international call-up.

Captain Liam Wright was a menace at the breakdown – having won a penalty during the first half – and was also the primary target at the lineout for hooker Matt Faessler. It was impossible not to notice the flanker’s impact on both sides of the ball.

Wright has played for the Wallabies before, but it’s been a while. With a new coach in Joe Schmidt, now would be the perfect time to reintroduce the Queensland Reds backrower into the test arena. After all, teammates Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson also in the conversation.

Then there’s Ryan Smith. Playing in his 50th match for Queensland, Smith won a lineout against the throw early on and later scored a try in the 27th minute. Former Wallaby Morgan Turinui said it best: “He’s been everywhere in this first 28 minutes.”

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Smith has been knocking at the international door all season, but a performance like this is exactly what Joe Schmidt would’ve wanted to see from the lock in the absence of some of the Reds’ best players.

Finally, Hunter Paisami was brilliant. There’s just no other way to look at it. Not only did the centre score a try and win a penalty at the breakdown, but he also got stuck in with some no-nonsense carries and some clever work as a playmaker alongside fly-half Tom Lynagh.

Paisami also registered a try assist by sending Lawson Creighton over for a score inside the final 20 minutes of the fixture, and added another on the siren with a kick across field for Suliasi Vunivalu.

It was the icing on the cake for the Reds.

With no McReight and no McDermott there were no ‘McWorries’ for the Reds on Friday and the trio of Smith, Wright and Paisami deserve credit for that. All three men are there or thereabouts when it comes to an international call-up with the Wallabies.

Highlanders rival Crusaders as a struggling New Zealand outfit

A lot has been said this season about how impressive the undefeated Hurricanes have looked and how the Crusaders’ struggles have shocked pretty well every rugby fan in the world. These storylines have dominated Super Rugby Pacific in 2024.

But then there’s the other New Zealand teams. The high-flying Blues have received plenty of praise themselves as they look to keep close to the Canes on the ladder, and the Chiefs are not too far behind with Damian McKenzie at No. 10.

Then there’s the Highlanders. The Dunedin-based outfit were sensational during pre-season but they’ve so far failed to repeat those heroics on a consistent basis when it counted. They’ve only won two matches from eight starts this season.

The Highlanders’ last win was on March 8 in Sydney. In that fixture, Waratahs fly-half Tane Edmed missed a penalty attempt at goal which would’ve handed the hosts a famous win in front of their home fans at Allianz Stadium.

It’s been a long month and a half for the Highlanders since. They’ve lost five matches on the bounce now, including a 47-12 defeat to the Hurricanes at home last month, and remain inside the bottom four and away from a playoff spot at the moment.

The Highlanders rival the Crusaders as a struggling New Zealand side. Whether one or both are good enough to rally and make an appearance in the finals remains to be seen, but it appears quite unlikely that both teams can charge into the top eight.

Folau Fakatava needs to start for Cam Millar to shine

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Cam Millar in New Zealand. The young first five has shown plenty of promise throughout the ranks of New Zealand rugby and is considered a long-term prospect to wear the No. 10 jersey in Dunedin.

Millar was handed a start against the Reds but unfortunately failed to fire. Wing Connor Garden-Bachop came closest to scoring with a chip-and-chase but even that seemed like a long shot with a number of Reds players getting back in defence.

The New Zealander is a good player, and the same can be said about his understudy tonight, Ajay Faleafaga. But if either man is to step up and grow at Super Rugby Pacific level then the Highlanders need their best players on the park.

When All Black Folau Fakatava came on, the Highlanders looked a little bit more threatening. Fakatava utilised his experience and unique skillset to steer the visitors around the park as they continued to search for their first points of the contest.

The Highlanders still had an off night and Fakatava doesn’t fix that on his own. But in matches like this which may have big ramifications on playoff spots, every team needs their best players on the field when they’re available.

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Abe 3 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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T
Turlough 7 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

17 Go to comments
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