Praise for "grittier" Reds as eyes turn to Blues Anzac blockbuster

Sat, Apr 20, 2024, 2:00 AM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey
The Reds secured a 31-nil victory over the Highlanders in Round 9 of Super Rugby Pacific 2024

Reds coach Les Kiss has hailed his side's defensive grit and courage following Friday's 31-0 thrashing of the Highlanders.

Kiss and captain Liam Wright were all smiles after ending a three-game losing streak and posting their biggest win over the South Islanders in 27 years.

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It's also the first time Queensland have kept a Kiwi side scoreless since beating the Hurricanes 11-0 back in 1999.

"It's been a long time since the Reds have done it so credit to the boys," Kiss told media post-game.

"The game has opened up a bit more with the laws and how they ref it, there's more access to get points, even if it's a penalty, but three points isn't zero. A nil score line in any day is brilliant, so really happy.

"We haven't been far away, we worked through what we felt we had to get right (and) we were tougher and grittier."

The Highlanders failed to score from six entries into Queensland's 22 despite posting almost double the number of tackle busts and offloads.

In scenes reminiscent of their Round 3 win over the Chiefs, the Reds twice defended 19+ phases on their goal-line and came away unscathed, Wright noting the aid of Brisbane's 13,000-strong crowd.

"It's been noticeable this year with the crowds growing and getting louder and rowdier," Wright said.

"We can hear the defence chants when we're going 15 phases deep. They get around us and help give us that second wind.

"It just felt like we knew we'd front up for each other."

And front up they did.

Queensland were forced to make 205 tackles - 150 of which were made after half time - with replacements Lawson Creighton (12 tackles, one turnover) and Tim Ryan (7 tackles without a miss) impressing in a makeshift centre combination.

"We push them pretty hard to make sure they feel like they can cover two or three positions," Kiss said of his backline players.

"You do lose a bit of flow in certain ways but knowing what the basics of what you've got to do for each other is important.

"For us, it's not about being perfect. It's about being effective when you have to be and despite the fact we had to move some things around in that backline they all did their basic role really well.

"It's nice to have that return in terms of what we're trying to generate here with guys who are flexible, adaptable and can find a way."

Flanker John Bryant also shone with 19 tackles in his starting Super Rugby debut while halfback Kalani Thomas drew praise for his assured performance in the absence of suspended duo Fraser McReight and Tate McDermott.

They'll likely retain those berths ahead of an Anzac weekend clash with the Blues but Kiss will have plenty to consider should Jordan Petaia's shoulder injury prove more than a stinger.

Petaia was subbed off after reeling away from a 32nd minute tackle on Timoci Tavatavanawai while Josh Flook missed Friday's win, also with a shoulder complaint.

Kiss said both players would be reassessed on Monday, adding he wouldn't hesitate to elevate a wider squad member from Queensland Premier Rugby if needed.

Souths utility Taj Annan could come into consideration after steering the Magpies to a 2-0 start to their season while Harry McLaughlin-Phillips and Creighton offer coverage at 12 should Paisami shift to 13.

"We've got some good options there. We're keeping close tabs on the guys playing club rugby and we've got younger guys who are champing at the bit too."

"The Blues are pretty hot property at the moment so we'll deal with that from tomorrow. Bring it on Anzac Day, it'll be a big battle."

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