The St.George Queensland Reds have fallen 24-20 in a tightly contested affair against the Crusaders in Christchurch in Round Six of Vodafone Super Rugby.
A valiant Queensland side traded tries with the defending premiers for much of the 80-minutes, scoring four tries to three, but were unable to break through in the final minutes as the hosts extended their home ground winning streak to 34 games.
Trailing by nine points with ten-minutes to play, an 80-metre team try finished by winger Henry Speight gave Queensland the opportunity to snatch a late win, but the Reds were unable to break the home side’s defence in the final minutes.
Head coach Brad Thorn said: “It was a well contested game, the Crusaders were too good for us in the end.
“I’m really proud of our team and I’ve been proud of them for the last six weeks, they don’t go away.
“We came here with everyone thinking it would be a win for the Crusaders, but we came here to win and there’s a belief within the group, so they’ll be a bit frustrated about how that ended.
“There’s a lot of footy to be played and plenty of opportunities in front of us, so we’ll focus on that.
“I’d like to thank the people who came and supported the Crusaders and I’d like to think that they now have a real respect about what’s going on in Queensland,” said Thorn.
After dominating field possession and possession early, the hosts broke the Queensland defence in the 11th minute to open the scoring, prop Joe Moody crossing from close range with a pick and drive.
The Reds made the most of their first attacking opportunity to bring the score to 7-5 in the 15th minute, Jock Campbell sending Chris Feauai-Sautia over the line for his third try of the season with a pinpoint long ball on the back of a 5-metre lineout.
Mo’unga stretched the Crusaders’ lead to 10-5 with a penalty-goal in the 19th minute before Harry Wilson burrowed his way through the hosts defence to score Queensland’s second try. Wilson’s five-pointer came after a 20-metre Lukhan Salakaia-Loto bust, before the Reds camped on the Crusaders line for over 10 phases to give Wilson the opportunity to break through. Campbell missed the tough conversion attempt with the scores locked at 10-all after the opening 25-minutes of play.
With the half-time siren sounding, Crusaders’ number-eight Tom Sanders was shown a yellow card as the sides headed to the sheds at 10-all.
The home side crossed three minutes into the second forty through fullback George Bridge, but Queensland again struck back quickly, this time through Taniela Tupou who dove over the line from close range to score and cut the deficit to two-points.
A try to Leicester Fainga'anuku regained the hosts’ lead in the 52nd minute at 24-15 as momentum continued to swing in Christchurch.
Queensland went almost 80-metres to score their next try, after a number of players combined within their own half to put Henry Speight into space, before the winger dashed away and over the line with the help of a neat Bryce Hegarty inside ball. Hegarty missed the conversion attempt, with the visitors trailing 24-20 with eight-minutes remaining.
The Reds had the opportunity to snatch a win in the final minutes but were unable to pierce the Crusaders defence as they held on for a 24-20 win.The Reds return home next week as part of a Super Rugby Double Header at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday 14 March. Four separate nations will be on show as the Sunwolves play the Crusaders at 3:35pm AEST, before Queensland takes on the Pretoria-based Bulls at 6:15pm AEST. Tickets available via http://bit.ly/3cAxqQs.