The St.George Queensland Reds have finished off the 2018 Vodafone Super Rugby season with a resounding 48-27 win over Japan’s Sunwolves at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
The Reds outscored the Sunwolves seven tries to three to take their season win tally to six, their most since 2013. The match also had its fair share of drama, with the Reds receiving a yellow card in each half and the Sunwolves getting a red card late in the first.
The match also saw the Reds continue to blood fresh talent, with two new debutants in Angus Blyth and Teti Tela brining the season total to 12.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “It’s a pleasing way to finish the season. The red card obviously had an impact on the game, but we played some good footy, built well and made smart decisions.
“We’ve been a work in progress all season, so it was nice to see the guys get some pay and finish the year with back-to-back wins in front of our home fans.
“No one is suggesting we’re happy to finish with six wins, but you can see we’re building something. We’ve got a young group who have worked hard and stuck together.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve shown something and laid a foundation.”
The Reds took a 29-13 lead into half time after a concerted focus on direct play and field position bore fruit.
The home side opened the scoring five minutes in, after a composed start saw them kick long and force a knock on through strong defence. A stable platform from the ensuing scrum saw them build phase play before young flanker Liam Wright crossed for his first Super Rugby try. Lance kicked the conversion and the Reds led 7-0.
The Sunwolves managed to close the gap with successive penalty goals from flyhalf Hayden Parker, taking the score to 7-6 after 16 minutes.
The Reds hit back in the 23rd minute, choosing to run the ball from just inside their own half, building 20 phases before centre Duncan Paia’aua found space for winger Eto Nabuli to cross over. Lance kicked the conversion to push the score to 14-6.
The Sunwolves returned serve five minutes later, receiving a penalty try for a deliberate knock down by Paia’aua close the Reds’ line, with the centre sent to the sin bin for the offence.
Lance, who received the Frank Ivory Medal for player of the match, pushed his side’s score out by a further eight points, with a penalty goal followed quickly by a piece of individual play for a try. With seemingly nothing on, Lance spotted a gap and ran 20 metres to score. The Reds led 22-13 after 33 minutes.
The Sunwolves received a tough blow in the 37th minute, with former Reds flanker Eddie Quirk given a red card for throwing a punch.
The Reds took immediate advantage, setting up an attacking raid in the Sunwolves’ 22-metre and building the phases before prop Taniela Tupou crashed over for a try. Lance kicked the conversion and the Reds led 29-13 at half time.
The Reds didn’t have it all their own way in the second half, with Caleb Timu yellow carded five minutes in for diving onto a player on the ground.
With both sides playing with 14 men, the Reds added a further three tries to their ledger.
The first was a second to departing winger Nabuli, who benefited from a great piece of defence from Paia’aua, who stripped the ball from Sunwolves backrower Michael Leitch and ran 30 metres before throwing an overhand pass to his Fijian teammate to score.
Paia’aua then added one of his own, receiving quick ball from Timu as the Reds pressured the Sunwolves line.
Replacement scrumhalf Moses Sorovi scored his side’s final try, running from the base of the ruck 10 metres out to cross the line.
The Reds conceded two tries in the final 10 minutes, but had secured the result.
St.George Queensland Reds 48 (Liam Wright, Eto Nabuli 2, Jono Lance, Taniela Tupou, Duncan Paia’aua, Moses Sorovi tries; Lance 5 conversions; Lance 1 penalty goal) defeated Sunwolves 27 (Jaba Bregvadze, Ryoto Nakamura tries, penalty try; Hayden Parker 2 conversions; Parker 2 penalty goals) at Suncorp Stadium on Friday 13 July, 2018.