The Reds concluded their season with a convincing 48-27 victory against a 14-man Sunwolves in Brisbane on Friday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Just a sixth win of the year draws the curtain on yet another disappointing campaign from the Reds.
As for the Sunwolves, it says a lot about the standard of Super Rugby that this was the Japanese side’s best-ever season in terms of wins recorded (three), tries scored (48) and log points accumulated (14), and yet they were comfortable wooden-spooners on the overall standings.
Playing in his last Super Rugby match, Reds fullback Jono Lance, who was an integral member of the title-winning team back in 2011, was the star of the show, scoring 18 points.
Receiving the kickoff in this dead rubber, the Sunwolves started sloppily as they failed to exit their half immediately. A loose carry by Willie Britz handed possession back to the hosts for an attacking scrum. After a dominant shove, which heralded a penalty advantage, they went short and flank Liam Wright went over for the first try of the game.
A sustained, 20-phase attack led to a second try for the Reds, scored by Eto Nabuli, as they opened up a 14-6 lead. Hayden Parker accounted for the visitors’ points with two penalties as he maintained his perfect record for penalty attempts in 2018 (he missed just two conversions).
Deprived of possession up to that stage, the Sunwolves managed to string a long sequence of play together. The sustained pressure put the Reds onto the back foot and forced a professional foul from Duncan Paia’aua, who deliberately slapped the ball down on the tryline. The act bought the Sunwolves a penalty try and closed the deficit to a point.
But the Reds took the game away from the Sunwolves in the last 10 minutes of the first half with a 15-point haul via a penalty, two tries and a conversion. The big talking point, though, was the contentious red card handed to Sunwolves flank Ed Quirk for punching an opponent in the face at the bottom of a ruck.
The inconsistency of match officials – a problem throughout the season – was again highlighted when flank Caleb Timu was only sanctioned with a yellow card for diving on a player with his shoulder, a more dangerous transgression than that of Quirk.
As it was, the dubious red card ended the game as a contest as the Reds backs stamped their authority on the match, running in three unanswered tries to push their advantage out to 48-13.
The Sunwolves, though, refused to go away, breaching the Reds’ defence twice in the last 10 minutes to finish the game with a flourish.
Reds – Tries: Liam Wright, Eto Nabuli (2), Jono Lance, Taniela Tupou, Duncan Paia’aua, Moses Sorovi. Conversions: Lance (5). Penalty: Lance.
Sunwolves – Tries: Penalty try, Ryoto Nakamura, Jaba Bregvadze. Conversions: Hayden Parker (2). Penalties: Parker (2).
Reds – 15 Jono Lance, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Hamish Stewart, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Liam Wright, 6 Caleb Timu, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Adam Korczyk, 22 Moses Sorovi, 23 Teti Tela.
Sunwolves – 15 Jason Emery, 14 Yoshikazu Fujita, 13 Michael Little, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Yutaka Nagare (c), 8 Willie Britz, 7 Edward Quirk, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Wimpie van der Walt, 4 James Moore, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Craig Millar.
Subs: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Kazuki Himeno, 20 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryoto Nakamura.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images