Rampaging Reds poleaxe Sunwolves
Reds 64-5. Ringmaster James O'Connor and his band of try-happy Reds have uncorked Queensland rugby's biggest points party since their title year of 2011.
Those numbers aren't a scoreboard malfunction at Suncorp Stadium but the performance the Reds have long promised their suffering fans.
When skipper Liam Wright said on match-eve that he felt his team was "really, really close to an awesome performance", most in the media downplayed his line as hopeful exaggeration.
Sure, the Reds had started the season 0-3 with periods of brilliant play and some excellent individual efforts but no sign that the team could play for 80 minutes.
On Saturday night, the Reds destroyed a Sunwolves side with starters drawn from six countries.
Watch every match of the 2020 Vodafone Super Rugby Season LIVE & On-Demand on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
The six-try blitz for 36-0 at half-time was outstanding but the seven minutes after the break was even more important.
Coach Brad Thorn had challenged his team to "show a ruthless streak" to open the second half after too easily letting teams back into the game in that period.
Backs Tate McDermott and Hamish Stewart both scored quick tries triggered by hassling defence that forced turnovers so the players gave Thorn the spurt he wanted to 50-0.
That was the game because the Reds started running on their eight reserves and the game loosened up.
O'Connor was a superb director of play from flyhalf and fullback Jock Campbell and outside centre Hunter Paisami were his equal.
The score and margin comfortably eclipsed the 53-3 thrashing of the Melbourne Rebels in 2011 for new Reds records on both fronts across the 25-year history of professional rugby.
"As a coach, you'll always say it's just one game and not to get carried away but we'll enjoy tonight," Thorn said.
There were 11,798 fans there to take it in and more will turn out to see if the Reds are the real thing against a far tougher Sharks side from Durban on Saturday night.
Paisami had racked up nine runs for 68m by half-time, including a typically strong inside running angle for his own try.
He runs straight and without fear and plays far bigger than his 1.78m frame.
Campbell's gliding, stepping runs from the back opened up the Japanese team time and again and his switch pass to Henry Speight showed his smart footballer's brain for the first McDermott try.
O'Connor's ability to draw defenders and put supports into space, in close or out wide, was excellent. His running had a joy to it that never existed in his fraught 2015 stint at the Reds when he played with a knee injury.
At full-time, a delighted Wright could say: "Fantastic...and annoying because we should do it a lot more often."
The mix of skills was potent with Harry Wilson off-loads, arrowing Paisami runs, a powerhouse Taniela Tupou charge to the try-line and Wright getting more involved in attack.
"Hunter is my type of guy. I like backs who are direct and physical and I think he fits well with the creativity in the backline by bringing what's unique to him," Thorn said.
On half-time, the Reds could have shut-off but instead launched a long-range strike with O'Connor involved twice before scoring off a Henry Speight flick pass.
The Sunwolves were poor so, realistically, this is confidence and a start for the Reds but no one is getting carried away with Kiwi opponents yet to come.
You can be told you are improving for just so long before the words sound hollow. Putting it out the park is a new energy altogether.
5 THINGS WE LEARNT ABOUT THE REDS
1 Is there a more underrated footballer in Australian rugby than Jock Campbell?
His move to fullback has been a masterstroke and he revelled with his running against the Sunwolves. Late in the first half, he gathered in a poor pass, jinked 30m from a standing start and set up a try for Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.
2 James O'Connor is building a case to be considered as the Wallabies' No.10. It's the variety to his game that is the appeal because he sets up supports extremely well, he leads and he plays the unselfish game that wasn't always his strength. There is verve to his running. He just needs to refine his kicking game.
3 The return of Fraser McReight. Because of the early 50-0 blowout, coach Brad Thorn could replace skipper Liam Wright and give McReight a valuable 30-minute hit out at flanker for his first minutes of the year. McReight will be a big factor in the weeks ahead.
4 The Reds have remodelled their attack. The support play, off-loading in tackles and more instinctive link play is a credit to backs coach Jim McKay.
5 The best scrum in Super Rugby. The Reds marched the Sunwolves scrum 10m early on and this platform is a key building block if there are to be wins against much better teams ahead.
QUEENSLAND REDS 64 (Tate McDermott 2, Isaac Lucas, Joshua Nasser, James O'Connor, Hunter Paisami, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Hamish Stewart, Taniela Tupou, Liam Wright tries Jock Campbell 6, Bryce Hegarty cons) SUNWOLVES 5 (Siosaia Fifita try) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Nic Berry.