Queensland Reds sneak home against Fiji Drua as Josh Flook doubles, analysis, highlights
It wasn’t pretty, but on a hot day in Brisbane, it was the Reds who clinched an important 27-24 win over Fiji Drua on Sunday afternoon.
After forging a 24-3 lead midway through the second half, Brad Thorn’s side shut down in the sweltering heat and let the Drua charge back into the game.
Two converted tries for the visitors reduced the lead to one before a Tom Lynagh penalty increased the lead to 10 points.
But Iosefo Masi’s miss and Frank Lomani’s conversion reduced the lead to three points with eight minutes to go, giving the Reds hope of full-time.
Finally, it came when Filipo Daugunu got on the ball to gain possession for the home side and fend off the Drua once and for all.
“Relieved, frustrated,” said Captain Liam Wright. “Fiji was great today, just like we imagined.
“I thought we had a really good game plan where we could see how the platform worked which would put them in the sword a bit, we were 24-3 up as a result and I just thought our second half was up a bit of breakdown.
“Obviously kudos to Fiji, they have played the style of football they do in the environment that suits them and they are being rewarded for that.
“I think we’re learning from this to be a smarter team. We can’t be the team that talks about shooting themselves in the foot all the time, so that was frustrating.”
The Reds’ second-half fade was reminiscent of their collapse against the Hurricanes in Townsville earlier in the year.
The home side were under a lot of pressure in the first 60 minutes, but only managed four attempts.
In fact, Wright’s side missed a half-dozen chances after failing to capitalize on set-piece superiority due to inaccuracies in the rolling maul transition and lineout.
The home side were also regularly pinged by a whistling Reuben Keane at the breakdown, where an outrageous 33 penalties were taken.
When asked if the errors were a mental issue for the home team, Wright said their sloppy finish was because they didn’t execute.
“I hope not, I don’t think so. I just think it comes from simple, pressure-relieving moments,” he said.
“We miss an alley at half-time, a lot of penalties because the lads didn’t roll away when they got up there in the channel and Frank Lomani played really smart by throwing it in them.”
Josh Flook, who scored an easy double that should have been a fantastic first-half hat-trick had he not attempted James O’Connor’s chipkick with one hand, was equally outspoken.
“Definitely a bit of a disappointment there,” he said.
“We got off to a good start, we made some good tries there but like last year we put them back in the game. Stupid penalties, let them play their football style and we made our own mistakes.
“I think it’s an attitude thing. During the week we work hard. It’s just when it comes to this season everyone gets a little too excited and we just have to play smarter.
Fijian striker Meli Derenalagi lamented his side’s slow start.
“In the first half we usually lack concentration,” he said. “That cost us in the first half.
“When we came out in the second half we were told we had to give it our all. We knew the Queensland Reds were going to come out tough.
“We planned to play fast ball so we could move them. But if we had done that from the first half it would have been a different result.”
Test rower Harry Wilson was the Reds’ best.
The contrasting No. 8 was the only ball runner to cross the payline and not spill the ball, while Ryan Smith had a solid shift in the tight five.
But his frustration was also shown when he later told Stan Sport that he almost came up with “blows” with his teammate – and good friend Fraser McReight – after a mix-up from a stolen lineout, resulting in an offside after Wilson’s hit the ball from an offside position after passing the ball into the head of his star reverser.
Elsewhere, O’Connor had his moments and Flook was his normal consistent self.
But there were stars in a terribly chaotic afternoon that got the best of Fiji’s halfback Lomani.
After Lomani knocked down an early penalty, Flook’s brace gave the Reds an ugly 12-3 lead at half-time before it looked like the home side had finally found their groove in the second period after easy attempts at Wilson and Vunivalu.
But Seru Uru’s yellow card, coming just short of the line after three penalties saw the striker sent into the trap, and Drua responded with two tries in 11 minutes.
Lynagh’s penalty calmed things down before Masi set up a thrilling finish.
But despite the Drua’s best efforts, the home side sneaked home to seal a relieving victory.
The three-point win saw the Reds join the Crusaders in sixth place on 10 points. There’s an important game against the Rebels in Melbourne next Saturday.
https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/03/19/relieved-frustrated-young-guns-double-helps-reds-scrape-home-against-fiji-in-penalty-a-thon/ Queensland Reds sneak home against Fiji Drua as Josh Flook doubles, analysis, highlights