The Blues held off a feisty and undermanned Reds outfit to continue their unbeaten run in the Super Rugby’s Trans-Tasman series.
An undermanned “Gen Next” Queensland Reds have given the unbeaten Blues a fright, getting within a converted try of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman leaders in their final home game of the season.
The Blues won 31-24 in a four tries to three victory, with the Reds having a chance to spring an upset when they held possession after the siren.
The Reds lost experienced backs James O’Connor to a neck injury on match day, before Bryce Hegarty’s late withdrawal with a hamstring problem led to teen tyro Mac Grealy getting an emergency call-up from coach Brad Thorn to make his debut.
Grealy expected to be watching the Reds’ final home game of the season from the sidelines but got the call from Thorn at 12.30pm to slot into the starting side.
“I was just sitting around watching a bit of a bit of basketball with my roomies and then I got the call from Thorny and knew it was game time,” the rookie told Stan Sport after the match.
Grealy’s parents made a mad dash from Toowoomba to be at Suncorp Stadium in time for match day and had several mates in the crowd, with all witnessing the first of what will be many games in the red jersey.
The Reds could not gift him a win though.
Despite soaking up pressure in the opening 20 minutes, allowing only a Blues penalty, the Reds struck a blow when Harry Wilson raced on to a short pass from Hunter Paisami to score under the posts midway through the first half.
But the Blues hit back quickly after Brandon Paenga-Amosa was sin binned for collapsing a maul, scoring two tries while the hooker was off the field in a passage that proved key to the outcome.
Isaac Henry had the chance to claw back the margin to a converted try at halftime but his penalty shot drifted just wide of the posts, leaving the home side trailing 17-7 at the break.
The Reds needed to score first after the break to apply pressure but when Patrick Tuipulotu scored just three minutes after the break, the Blues were up by 17 and seemingly had the match sewn up but the Reds continued to fight.
Late tries to Paenga-Amosa and Filipo Daugunu gave the Reds a sniff but they were not good enough in the key areas, making too many basic errors to get over the line.
Captain Liam Wright was proud of his team’s effort but disappointed in the result.
“It was a bit of a disrupted prep but the guys came in, I thought Mac (Grealy) was fantastic, Hamish (Stewart) slotted in really well at 10 and just did their job and never gave up and kept on fighting for us,” Wright said.
“It put us in with a shot at the end but we couldn’t quite take it.”
Grealy lives up to hype
Plenty of hype has surrounded young gun Mac Grealy and he lived up to the talk after his surprise call-up on Friday night, showing he will be a player of the future.
The teen, who shunned the overtures of NRL clubs to sign with the Reds, has earnt comparisons to Tim Horan with his fancy footwork, speed and composure and in his unexpected debut, he showed a poise that suggests he will be a fixture in the Queensland team for years to come.
General play kicking has been an issue for the Reds in the past but Grealy showed enough to suggest he could be a long-term solution at the back.
Paenga-Amosa bids farewell
France-bound Brandon Paenga-Amosa scored a try in his Suncorp Stadium farewell but it was the time he spent off the field in the first half that unfortunately had most impact on the match.
The Blues scored twice when the hooker was sin binned for collapsing a maul and it proved a key period in the match.
The former garbo was again unreliable at times throwing into the lineout but Queensland will miss his scrummaging ability and leadership when he leaves Ballymore.
O’Connor’s influence pronounced
James O’Connor was a late withdrawal with a shoulder injury sustained in last week’s clash against the Chiefs, forcing him to miss his 100th Super Rugby match.
The Reds missed not only his ability in the no. 10 jersey but the calming influence and organising ability he brought throughout the season.
Time after time, the Reds kicked the ball away or chased easy options without O’Connor’s direction and influence on the field.
His extended signing for Queensland until after the 2023 World Cup will ensure the next generation can continue to develop under his on and off-field leadership.
BLUES 31 (Tries: Papalii, Telea, Tuipulotu, Christie; Cons: Black 4; Pens: Black)
QUEENSLAND REDS 24 (Tries: Wilson, Paenga-Amosa, Daugunu; Cons: Henry 3; Pens: Daugunu)