Reds refuse to be blown away by Stormers
A GRITTY fightback from 18-0 down in Cape Town came up short for the Queensland Reds but it proved the team's never-say-die attitude does travel under coach Brad Thorn.
The Stormers were the superior side this morning (Qld time) but a wonderful 95m try from winger Filipo Daugunu just 30 seconds from full-time created an unlikely chance for the Reds to steal the result.
When Aidan Toua scooted 30m from the kick-off and the Reds earned a penalty the most unlikely of endings was on the cards because the visitors set up for 5m lineout after a thumping Jono Lance kick to touch.
The final chance was snuffed out in a maze of collapsed bodies but the 25-19 loss still had real merit as a reflection of how hard this young Reds side is working to making every match a scrap to the end.
"I've seen games when 18-0 down easily blow out but these guys just kept on competing," coach Thorn said.
"They've had a round-the-world trip (Buenos Aires-London-Cape Town) this week, a lot that wasn't rosy out there and with all the challenges to get within that range of winning is a great effort."
His 100th game for the Reds was not a victory yet captain James Slipper saw the broader positives of a team on the rise after four failed seasons.
"The boys really fought right to the end. We know we've got to keep improving and we are not at the level we want to be but from where we've been to where we are now, we've come a long way."
The Reds were 18-0 down at the 35-minute mark and commonsense suggested their legs would fade in the second half and the Stormers would come home the stronger with home fans behind them at Newlands.
Lock Izack Rodda changed the momentum with a fine lineout steal.
Flyhalf Lance converted the pressure by taking the ball to the line and feeding an inside pass for impressive No. 8 Caleb Timu to crash over.
The hustle was there again straight after the break when flanker Adam Korczyk charged down the kick of poor Stormers replacement halfback Justin Phillips.
Korczyk followed through, applied the pressure when Stormers fullback George Whitehead mopped up the loose ball and forced a penalty.
Halfback Ben Lucas took a quick tap and when hooker Alex Mafi burrowed over from close range the match was suddenly alive at 18-14.
The scrum dominance which the Reds had enjoyed in three consecutive victories was never there at Newlands where the Stormers took the battle to the Queenslanders at their strength.
Prop Taniela Tupou was penalised three times for technical engagement offences and it forced Thorn to replace him at the 52-minute mark so he did not raise the ire of referee Marius van der Westhuizen any further.
Tupou has more than an off-match of scrimmaging to worry about.
At the 10-minute mark, Tupou buried his right shoulder into winger Craig Barry. It was a no-arms tackle on a player just after he'd passed the ball but it escaped the referee's eyes on the field.
You could sense a citing swirling around Newlands and judiciary consistency suggests Tupou will be missing the April 7 clash against the ACT Brumbies in Canberra when the Reds return from a bye.
The fast-rushing defence of the Stormers forced early errors with centre Duncan Paia'aua passing into touch and Lance skewing a poor up-and-under when pressured.
The Stormers' opening try was all class. Springbok winger Raymond Rhule put on a fast, gliding, change of pace in a single step. It sucked Daugunu off his wing and the Stormers' lethal finishing down the left touchline produced a fine try for halfback Dewaldt Duvenage.
Timu had a strong first half, Korczyk made some excellent tackles, hooker Mafi's workrate was high, centre Paia'aua struggled to make a mark and Rodda was all Wallaby-class again.
Backrower Scott Higginbotham came on for the final 34 minutes for his first game since his three-match ban in the opening round.
He coughed up the ball in a strong tackle when making his first ball-carry but was involved in a fine breakout passing movement shortly after.
STORMERS 25 (Dewaldt Duvenage, Wilco Louw, Raymond Rhule tries Damian Willemse 2 cons 2 pens) bt QUEENSLAND REDS 19 (Filipo Daugunu, Jono Lance, Alex Mafi tries Lance 2 cons) at Newlands Rugby Stadium. Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen