The St.George Queensland Reds have secured a gritty 26-19 bonus-point win over the Western Force at Suncorp Stadium to claim top-spot on the Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU ladder.
Queensland scored four tries to one, including a Hunter Paisami double, in front of a crowd of 12,011 in Brisbane, with four penalty goals keeping the visiting side in the contest for much of the match.
With the scores level at the 65-minute mark, a Jock Campbell try put Queensland into a match-winning seven-point lead, before some determined Reds defence within their own half denied the Force the opportunity to snatch a late draw.
It’s Queensland’s ninth straight win on their home turf, keeping their unbeaten start to the 2021 season alive with their second bonus-point win.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “There’s been about three of those in a row now.
“There’s the positive side of it where the guys are getting the job done, showing composure at the back-end, but there’s the frustrating side of discipline around ball control, simple errors and some needless penalties.
“We get our discipline right, there’s real potential there to play some really good Rugby.
“A lot of respect to the Force, they came here with an experienced group of guys, an impressive scrum.
“They were playing their game. They were getting amongst it with real good pressure there,” said Thorn.
A sniping Tate McDermott run opened Queensland’s account, the livewire scrumhalf darting through the Force defence from close range to score his first try of the season. James O’Connor made no mistake with the ensuing conversion to give his side a 7-nil lead in the 9th minute.
Former Red Jake McIntrye kicked his side within four-points with a penalty goal in the 15th minute, but it wasn’t long before Queensland again stretched their advantage, this time through Paisami. The Wallabies centre crashed over the line to score off the back of a Campbell break, with O’Connor’s second conversion putting the score out to 14-3.
The visitors hit back with a try of their own in the 20th minute, hooker Feleti Kaitu'u the scorer, with another McIntyre penalty on the stroke of half-time bringing the Force within one-point at the break at 14-13.
Fraser McReight was denied Queensland’s first points of the second stanza, with the TMO ruling the backrower knocked the ball on across the line.
A third McIntyre penalty then kicked the visiting side into their first lead of the match, but another Paisami try soon after regained the Queensland’s advantage at 19-16 in the 53rd minute. The outside centre broke the line with a show-and-go from 30-metres out and proved too quick for the chasing defence to score his second five-pointer of the night.
McIntyre’s boot evened the scores with a penalty in the 56th minute, before a piece of Suliasi Vunivalu magic put the Reds back into a 26-19 lead. After juggling a misplaced pass behind his back, the winger broke through the defence, fending off the last line of Force defence and sending Campbell over the line with a superb cut-out pass. O’Connor’s third conversion gave his side a decisive seven-point lead with 12-minutes to play.
The Force had the chance to even the scores in the final minutes but were unable to break through the stubborn Reds defence, as Queensland secured their fourth straight win this season to remain undefeated.
Queensland are back on the road next weekend when they take on the New South Wales Waratahs at Stadium Australia on Saturday 27 March at 6:45pm AEST.