The Reds put a difficult week behind them with an 18-6 win against the Force in Brisbane, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
A tropical cyclone had threatened to postpone Saturday's match, but after 300ml of rain in 24 hours, the weather cleared up an hour before kick-off.
The Reds came into the Australian derby as underdogs, having lost their last two matches to the Force in Brisbane and being thrashed 47-3 by the Brumbies last weekend. They also suffered big blows when fullback Karmichael Hunt was withdrawn from the starting lineup on Friday following allegations he had been involved in supplying cocaine, and flyhalf James O'Connor was ruled out just before kick-off.
In contrast, the Force's preparations went well and they were full of confidence having beaten the champion Waratahs in round one.
However, the visitors suffered an early setback when former UCT loosehead prop Francois van Wyk left the field with an arm injury after just four minutes. He was replaced by another ex-Ikey, Chris Heiberg, who made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut.
Two penalties from Lachlan Turner and one from Sias Ebersohn saw the hosts lead 6-3, and they then found themselves up against 14 men when Heiberg was yellow-carded for an intentional knock-on close to his line. The Reds kicked for touch, won the lineout, but conceded a penalty five phases later.
Ebersohn levelled the scores with his second penalty, before the Reds finally made their numerical advantage count just before the break. Chris Kuridrani fielded a kick just outside his 22, counter-attacked down the right-hand touchline, and popped a pass in the tackle to Chris Feauai-Sautia. He found Samu Kerevi, who put Turner into space, and the fullback bounced off Luke Morahan before scoring in the corner.
The Reds scrum took charge early in the second half, winning three penalties. After a few more scrums, Nic Frisby put Feauai-Sautia into space, but the try was disallowed when the TMO harshly ruled that the ball had gone forward out of the flyhalf's hands.
But another strong scrum saw the Reds claim a tighthead and when the Force disintegrated again, the referee finally lost patience and awarded a penalty try.
The remaining 25 minutes were forgettable, to be polite, as neither side could add to their tally.
Reds – Try: Lachlan Turner, penalty try. Conversion: Turner. Penalties: Turner (2).
Force – Penalties: Sias Ebersohn (2).
Reds – 15 Lachlan Turner, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Campbell Magnay, 10 Nic Frisby, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Marco Kotze, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Tom Murday, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Tom Banks, 22 Sam Johnson, 23 David McDuling.
Force – 15 Zack Holmes, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Mitchell Scott.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images