A young Queensland Reds side endured a tough and physical midseason hit-out against New Zealand’s Hurricanes on Friday night with the Sunshine Coast exhibition encounter a valuable lead-up before the team embarks on the remainder of their Super Rugby campaign in a fortnight.
The Queenslanders went down 36-7 to a rampant Hurricanes side although they will gain a lot from the experience with the Reds blooding a host of National Academy and Queensland Premier Rugby talents to fill the void left by absent Wallabies, Australian Under 20 representatives and injured players.
The match is the only encounter the Reds will play during their month-long break to the Super Rugby season and the team will now turn their attention to their remaining three regular season matches against the Rebels, Highlanders and Waratahs.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said he was pleased with the fighting spirit shown by the squad despite only having a few days on the training field to prepare.
“In the second half they found a bit of rhythm and we had a few opportunities, but we just weren’t clinic enough to finish off the pressure we did apply,” McKenzie said.
“The scoreboard wasn’t kind but we battled away and we will get some value out of that. There were a couple of players I wanted to take a look at and they did some good things. It gives us a pointer to where we can go in the future.
“We also used a full bench and a couple of guys played out of position in the end, so it would have been a good learning curve for some of them.
“In the end you, need to keep your match fitness going. We can’t go five weeks without a game, you need to go out there and experience match conditions and play at a high match intensity. We got that tonight.
“The Hurricanes played with great intensity and great pace. They’ve been doing that all year and are leading the competition in tries.”
McKenzie said the players enjoyed the match on the Sunshine Coast, which was very well received by a vocal crowd of 5,106 who turned out at Stockland Stadium Sunshine Coast to watch the young Reds in action.
“I’ve been here a few times now but this was my first playing experience,” he said.
“The facilities are brilliant and the organisation of the match was fantastic. The Hurricanes were pleased too and it was a good event all round. I just wish the scoreboard was a little kinder.”
Despite the result, there were a number of positives to take from the match with Radike Samo proving destructive with each carry of the ball while fullback Luke Morahan, who became Queensland’s newest Wallaby when he debuted against Scotland last week, was cool under pressure in defusing a number of Hurricanes’ attacking raids.
Scrumhalf and captain Ben Lucas was also impressive in a busy display before coming from the field with a mild shoulder complaint in the second half while vice-captain Jake Schatz worked hard at the breakdown to lay a foundation which would allow prop Guy Shepherdson to crash over next to the posts for the Reds only try.
Both teams played the game with a strong attacking intent and willingness to spread the ball although it was the Hurricanes who were first on the board when scrumhalf Chris Eaton slipped through the Reds defence to give his side an early 5-0 lead.
From this moment the Reds took control of the match and spent long periods inside the Hurricanes half, however it was the visitors who struck next with what was arguably the play of the game.
The Hurricanes won a turnover deep in their own half before spreading the ball along their own goal line, the 100 metre movement ending with Waisake Naholo breaking away from a final defender to bring the score to 12-0.
A further two tries to the visitors in the second half put the Queenslanders on the back foot although the Reds fought back courageously to score the next try through Shepherdson after some strong lead-up work in the forwards.
Captain Ben Lucas said the match would be important in preparing his side for the remainder of their Super Rugby games.
“We gave a few new guys an opportunity tonight and I think they will learn a lot from the experience. But a lack of combinations and cohesion probably hurt us in the end,” Lucas said.
“I would have liked my first time as captain to be a winning one but it doesn’t always going to plan. However I was honoured the get the captaincy and I enjoyed doing it.
“The crowd was also spectacular and the game was built up really well. Hopefully coming up here will be one of many we make. We’re now looking forward to the three games to come.”