Horwill's Reds climb huge mountain
The Reds, who welcomed back captain James Horwill to Super Rugby, started what coach Ewen McKenzie described as 'climbing a huge mountain'.
The Queensland Reds, who welcomed back captain James Horwill to Super Rugby, started what coach Ewen McKenzie described as 'climbing a huge mountain' on Saturday.
The 2011 champions were delighted with their 23-18 win over the Bulls in Brisbane.
The Reds celebrated Horwill's comeback match by scoring two tries to nil although, it wasn't until the final play of the game that the victory was secured - when wing Chris Feauai-Sautia produced a spectacular try-saving tackle on Bulls flyer JJ Engelbrecht.
Horwill was impactful in his return from a 10-month injury lay-off although it was playmaking duo Will Genia and Quade Cooper who stole the show in igniting the Reds for both of their tries.
Fullback Jono Lance crossed in the 38th minute off the back of some brilliant play from halves Genia and Cooper while it was Cooper who also scored the Reds second five-pointer when a blindside dart from Genia gave the flyhalf a clear run to the line.
The victory was the Reds fourth of the season from six games and sets them up for their upcoming clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday, before enjoying a well-earned bye to prepare for a blockbuster April 13 encounter against the reigning champion Chiefs in Hamilton.
Reds Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie said his side would build on Saturday's victory ahead of games against two straight New Zealand opponents.
"I saw some bits and pieces, which made me feel pretty good that we are starting to climb," McKenzie said.
"We certainly are nowhere near the top of the mountain, but we are heading in the right direction.
"We have seven games before the bye so if we can get there at five wins and two losses that will be fantastic.
"You would love seven from seven, but given the nature of the competition, that would be a good result. But, we've got a bit of work to do to get that.
"We do have to go on the road but we will look forward to playing the Highlanders and the Chiefs.
"We've won the last two times we've played in Hamilton and the Highlanders will also be a challenge down there."
Horwill said he pleased to see the team get a victory in his comeback game.
"It was good to get the match out of the way," Horwill said.
"It is the last hurdle you need to tick off, actually playing a game.
"My body feels good and the hamstring feels fine.
"I'm happy I got through it and even happier we got the result we were looking for.
"I thought we were very enthusiastic and we just focused on trying to do the simple things well."