Victory in defeat for Reds
The Reds lost their friendly against the Chiefs on the Sunshine Coast on Friday but Ewen McKenzie was satisfied with the hit-out.
The Reds will turn their attention to their Super Rugby season opener against the Brumbies in Canberra next Saturday following a strong trial performance against the reigning Super Rugby champion Chiefs on the Sunshine Coast on Friday.
The Reds will take plenty of positives from their second and final trial of 2013 after keeping the high-powered Chiefs attack scoreless in the opening half at Stockland Park before faltering late and going down 20-8.
In a highly entertaining affair played in front of a strong crowd of 4,692, the Reds showed they were ready for the season proper after taking an 8-0 lead into half-time with flank Liam Gill scoring his third try of the pre-season and centre Mike Harris adding three points with the boot.
On the same night that Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper made a remarkable boxing debut with a round one knockout victory of Barry Dunnett, the Chiefs highlighted their championship credentials to fight back during a second half where both teams emptied their extended benches.
Despite the loss, Reds Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie said the trial hit-out has better prepared his side for Round One.
"Obviously we would have loved to have won on the scoreboard but there were plenty of good bits and pieces out there," McKenzie said.
"We specifically targeted the New Zealand teams to play trials against so we're pretty happy with the physical workout we got tonight. It got away from us a bit at the end but we used 28 players and we're trying to find out about all our guys. That objective was achieved.
"Obviously in certain parts of the game we were very pleased. We didn't take shots at goal so we could practice our football. That's a slightly different philosophy to previous years but in the end it's about physically preparing ourselves to play the Brumbies.
"I was pretty happy with how we started the game. Our scrum performed well and our line-out was a good possession source. There were a lot of things going on and we'll be better for the experience.
"We just needed to control the ball a bit better, but we created a lot of opportunities and had a lot of field position. We just didn't make them pay on the scoreboard.
"Both trials have been really good in terms of working out where players are up to in terms of form. It will be a difficult task next week choosing the team but we've given ourselves the best chance to get it right."
The Reds will take plenty of positives from the encounter with their set-piece dominating for a second straight week thanks to the standout performance of captain and prop James Slipper and line-out general Rob Simmons.
Scrumhalf Ben Lucas and wing Digby Ioane also flashed their brilliance in highly commendable performances while flanks Gill and Eddie Quirk were their normal busy selves as part of a strong overall team defensive display.
The opening half commenced in frantic fashion with the Reds highlighting their clear attacking intent with early linebreaks to flank Quirk and wing Ioane giving the Queenslanders the early momentum.
It took only six minutes for the Reds to strike when sustained pressure led to points when Harris calmly slotted his first penalty goal to give the Reds an early 3-0 lead.
Slipper was the standout of the opening 40 minutes as the Reds scrum proved too powerful for the Chiefs front row while a commanding tackle in the closing stages halted the momentum of a desperate Chiefs attacking raid.
For the second straight week the Reds set-piece got on top of their opposition with Simmons also making an impact to win three line-out steals in the opening 40 minutes.
Despite the low scoreline both teams continued to produce an enterprising brand of rugby with the end-to-end action thrilling the large Sunshine Coast crowd.
The Reds gained the upper hand on the stroke of half-time courtesy of a breakdown turnover by Ioane and Gill. In the ensuing possession the Reds were denied with four minutes remaining when a driving maul was deemed to be held up over the line.
However, the Reds again turned to the driving maul to set up one final chance and it was Gill who was rewarded when he dived over from close-range to score his third try of the preseason.
The Reds made five changes to open the second half with Dom Shipperley, Aidan Toua, James Hanson, Adam Wallace-Harrison and Nick Frisby all joining the action. But, it was the Chiefs who struck first with a driving maul of their own beginning a strong movement that ended with Bundee Aki crossing under the posts.
Defence continued to dominate during the second half with a Chiefs penalty just before the 60-minute drinks break giving the visitors their first lead of the match 10-8.
As both teams emptied their benches in the final quarter of the game, a number of errors began to creep in with the Reds battling hard in defence despite running into a heavy wind.
The Chiefs capitalised on their territorial advantage with late tries to Augustine Pulu and Aseli Tikoirotuma extending the final winning margin.
Tries: Aki, Pulu, Tikoirotuma
Reds: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ed O’Donoghue, 3 James Slipper (captain), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements - from: Albert Anae, James Hanson, Jono Owen, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Nigel Ah Wong, Curtis Browning, Jarrad Butler, Nick Frisby, Dion Taumata, Chris F'Sautia, Aidan Toua, Dom Shipperley
Chiefs: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams , 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Ross Filipo, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements - from: Hika Elliot, Michael Kainga, Michael Fitzgerald, Tanerau Latimer, August Pulu, Gareth Anscombe, Bundee Aki, Maritino Nemani, Matthew Vant Leven, Nick Crosswell, Pauliasi Manu.
Date: Friday, February 8
Venue: Stockland Stadium, Sunshine Coast
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia), Paul Haydock (Australia)