The St.George Queensland Reds have been narrowly defeated by the Chiefs in front of 4821 supporters at Ballymore Stadium in their final pre-season fixture.
The two sides scored three tries apiece in a seesawing encounter, with the game going down to the final seconds in front of a raucous crowd.
Despite the defeat, the Reds will be buoyed by some enterprising attack, a dominant scrum and strong performances from Tate McDermott and Isaac Lucas.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “We worked hard for a loss. Obviously, the scrum had some dominance and our conditioning.
“I was pleased with the body language form the guys on a muggy night, our defence had some good grit there.
“Just with our attack there wasn’t much going on and then finally some life got breathed into our attack and we started to have some structures and played out some footy,” said Thorn.S
The visitors opened the scoring in the second minute through fullback Shaun Stevenson, before Jack Debreczeni’s conversion from close to the sideline gave his side a 7-0 lead.
Bailyn Sullivan was next to score for the Chiefs, after a well-placed Stevenson grubber kick put the outside centre over the line. Debreczeni added the extras to stretch the score to 14-nil after the opening ten minutes.
The score remained for the rest of the first half as both sides turned over the ball at regular intervals, although a moment of Moses Sorovi magic almost delivered the home side their first try. The electric halfback broke the Chiefs line, before he found Lukan Salakaia-Loto with a flick pass to nearly put the lock over the line.
Hamish Stewart also provided the Ballymore faithful with his own piece of brilliance, after he held Brad Weber up over the line in the final seconds of the first half to deny the Chief’s their third try.
Queensland hit back for their first five-pointer in the 49th minute, after Harry Hoopert burrowed his way over close to the line. Bryce Hegarty slotted the conversion to bring the home side within a converted try at 14-7.
Lucas brought Queensland within striking distance again with a 30-metre solo run, before the Reds raided the Chiefs try line with a series of strong scrums and carries.
It was McDermott who found the line, after he caught the Chiefs defence napping with a quick tap from five metres out. Filipo Daugunu converted to level the scores with twenty minutes to play.
The deadlock didn’t last long, as Tyler Campbell crossed for the visitor’s third try just minutes later. Stevenson converted to make the score 21-14 as the game headed into the final 15 minutes.
Queensland quickly replied with a try of their own through Ruan Smith. The prop the beneficiary of Jack Hardy, who broke the defence with a show-and-go close to the line to score in the left-hand corner. Daugunu missed the tough conversion to equal the score, setting up a thrilling finish with five minutes remaining and just a two-point lead to the Chiefs.
It was almost a fairy-tale finish for the Reds after they attacked inside Chiefs’ half in the dying minutes, but it wasn’t to be, as the visitors held strong to leave Brisbane with a two-point win.
The Reds will now look ahead to their opening clash of the Super Rugby season against the Highlanders on February 22 in Dunedin.
St.George Queensland Reds 19 (Tries: Hoopert, McDermott, Ruan Smith, Conversions: Hegarty 1, Duagunu 1) defeated by Chiefs 21 (Tries: Stevenson, Sullivan, Campbell, Conversions: Sullivan 2, Stevenson 1) at Ballymore Stadium, Friday February 8 2019