The St.George Queensland Reds have defeated the Southern Kings 47-34 in Round 8 of Vodafone Super Rugby at Suncorp Stadium.
It was the first time that the Reds had met South Africa’s Southern Kings and both teams took advantage of the 3:00pm kick off, showing an intention to play expansively.
Karmichael Hunt, Eto Nabuli and Izaia Perese all crossed for doubles as the Reds ran in seven tries to five.
Reds head coach Nick Stiles said: “We’re just stoked with the win. It’s been a difficult start to the season, so to run out at our home ground tonight and earn a win for ourselves and our fans is really rewarding.
“It was great to see Quade and Karmichael come back into the side and have an impact, but I was also pleased with the performances of some of our younger generation, guys like Alex Mafi and Izaia Perese, they handled the pressure of starting well.
“We’ll enjoy a bit of a break over the bye now and then get stuck into preparing for a massive game against New South Wales up here in two weeks.”
The Reds were handed a yellow card on the cusp of half time but showed composure to score two tries in that 10-minute period.
The match featured a significant milestone for veteran flanker George Smith, who became just the seventh player in history and only the third Australian player to reach 150 Super Rugby caps.
With Alex Mafi making his starting debut at hooker, the Reds won the set-piece battle, forcing the Southern Kings into three penalties at scrum time.
Five minutes into the match the Reds won a scrum against the head, swung the ball wide to Eto Nabuli who crossed for the first try of the match.
The Kings levelled the scores in the 23rd minute when Chris Cloete touched down, 7-7.
James Tuttle hit Hunt with a short ball and the fullback crashed over the line to give the Reds a seven-point lead.
Kings flyhalf Lionel Cronje made it a four-point game slotting a penalty goal after Duncan Paia’aua was sent to the sin bin for a late tackle.
The teams hit the sheds with the Reds leading 14-10.
Straight after half time the Reds secured clean lineout ball and Smith and Scott Higginbotham combined with some crisp passing as Smith crashed over.
Nabuli claimed his double in the 48th minute to extend the Reds’ lead to 16 points but Louis Schreuder reduced that lead to 11 shortly after.
Cooper dabbed a perfectly weighted grubber kick in behind the Kings’ defensive line and Hunt swooped for his second try. Cooper’s successful conversion brought up his 800th Super Rugby point, a first for any Reds player and only the third Australian player to reach the milestone.
Cooper threw a cut-out ball to Hunt who straightened and drew the last man to put Izaia Perese over for his first Super Rugby try.
Moments later Cooper and Hunt combined again when the flyhalf delivered a pin-point cross field kick to unleash Hunt from inside the Reds own 22. Hunt passed the ball to a flying Perese who raced 50 metres to score.
The Kings scored three quick tries after the 67th minute reducing the Reds lead to 13 points before the final whistle.
The Reds have the bye next week and will return to Suncorp Stadium in two weeks to play the Waratahs on Saturday April 29, 7:45PM.
St George Queensland Reds 47 (Eto Nabuli 2, Karmichael Hunt 2, George Smith, Izaia Perese 2, tries; Quade Cooper 5 cons) defeated Southern Kings 34 (Chris Cloete, Louis Schreuder, Makazole Mapimpi 2, Masixole Banda tries; Lionel Cronje 2 con, Pieter-Steyn de Wet, Cronje 1 pen goal.) at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday 15 April, 2017.