Reds too good for Rebels
PRE-SEASON REPORT: The Reds sent a warning to future opponents when they beat the Melbourne Rebels 32-13 in Brisbane on Tuesday.
The Rebels could not contain the Reds scrum, which was superb with the starting front row combination of James Slipper, Stephen Moore and Sam Talakai and arguably even better when Sef Fa’agase and Andrew Ready replaced Slipper and Moore.
The Reds backs were fed clean set-piece ball time and time again as the pack drew six penalties to one at scrum time.
Both teams suffered from ball handling issues but it was the Reds who found top gear when it was required, as Quade Cooper, Duncan Pai'aua and Karmichael Hunt fed off each other to set up three of the four tries.
The returning brigade of Cooper, Moore, Houston and Higginbotham were all impressive in their return to Ballymore in a performance that will provide plenty of hope for Reds fans heading into next Friday's Round One clash with the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium.
It took a piece of individual brilliance by Sefa Naivalu and some substandard tackles by Karmichael Hunt and Nick Frisby to break the deadlock, as Naivalu ran 50 metres down the right hand sideline to score under the posts at the 11th minute mark.
The Reds hit back through a Quade Cooper penalty goal but a Leroy Houston dropped kick off and ensuing offside allowed the Rebels to stretch out to a 10-3 lead thanks to the boot of Jackson Garden-Bachop.
The home side levelled the score at 10-all with some neat passing on the verge of the quarter time break, as Cooper put Karmichael Hunt through a hole, who then passed inside for Rob Simmons to crash over the line.
The two teams traded one penalty each as the Reds started to assert their dominance at the scrum, earning four penalties in the second quarter.
As the half time siren sounded, Duncan Paia'aua showed fantastic composure by picking up a scrappy Nick Frisby pass from a quick tap, drawing two Rebels defenders and throwing a perfectly timed pop pass to put Eto Nabuli over, handing the Reds a 20-13 lead at the main break.
Garden-Bachop missed his second kickable penalty of the night in the opening minutes of the third quarter before the Rebels launched a multi phase attack inside the Reds' 22 - Scott Higginbotham earning his stripes as a returning Red with a clean pilfer penalty as Laurie Weeks was tackled centimetres from the tryline.
The clock has just ticked past 58 minutes when Cooper, Paia'aua and Hunt launched another counter attack, showing clean hands and perfect passing to send a flying Chris Kuridrani down the left hand sideline to score.
Another 12 minutes had gone when Higginbotham nabbed a five pointer of his own on the same side of the field, Kuridrani notching a try assist to add to the try he scored with his first touch of the game.
Tries: Simmons, Nabuli, Kuridrani, Higginbotham
Cons: Cooper 2, McIntyre
Pens: Cooper 2
For Melbourne Rebels:
Pens: Garden Bachop 2
Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia'aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Adam Korczyk, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacements - from: Andrew Ready, Markus Vanzati, Sef Fa'agase, Lukhan Tui, Michael Gunn, James Tuttle, Jake McIntyre, Chris Kuridrani, Izack Rodda, Scott Higginbotham, Henry Taefu, Tyrone Lefau, Lachlan Maranta, Jayden Ngamanu.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Jonah Placid, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements - from: Jordan Uelese, Cruze Ah-Nau, Tyrel Lomax, Murray Douglas, Jordy Reid, Ben Meehan, Sione Tuipulotu, Jack Debreczeni, Jake Schatz, Dennis Pili-Gaitau, Ben Volavola.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)