The Queensland Reds have scored a dramatic 38-31 Super Rugby upset over the Highlanders at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland produced their best Super Rugby display of a nightmare season to celebrate Will Genia’s 100th Reds match with a thrilling 38-31 upset of the Highlanders on Friday night.
Genia was superb in a man-of-the-match display at Suncorp Stadium as the Reds ended their worst losing streak since 2007 with a Jake Schatz try after the fulltime hooter.
The Reds went 50m in almost two minutes of “red time” with countless rumbling phases before No.8 Schatz barged over for his second try of a pulsating encounter.
It was not only a win cheered on by 24,490 Brisbane fans but by a host of rival Australian and Kiwi teams as the result put a significant dent in the sixth-placed Highlanders’ play-off hopes.
Queensland appeared to have the match parcelled up at 28-7 when they bagged a four-try bonus point in the 48th minute with Schatz scoring his first five-pointer from a pushover scrum.
They were also leading 31-17 with five minutes left before Ben Lucas, filling in for the injured Quade Cooper, gave Patrick Osborne an 80m intercept try to close the gap to seven.
It appeared the Reds’ rotten luck in their string of six straight losses had continued when reserve halfback Fumiaki Tanaka dived over with a minute left.
But the final result was thoroughly deserving for Queensland – who dominated the set pieces – and Genia especially.
Under fire this season for shelving his running game, the 55-Test halfback was at his roaming best from the outset to the delight of the home crowd.
Not only was Genia probing but his kicking was a feature of Queensland’s superb first half.
It was his right boot which created a 21-0 halftime lead with kicks that resulted in tries to wingers Rod Davies and Dom Shipperley.
The Highlanders showed their intent early with a high-octane attacking game but the Reds’ scrambling defence and their superior work at the breakdown got them out of jail.
Queensland’s lineout also saved them under pressure in their own half with Wallabies lock Rob Simmons standing tall a week out from the opening Test against France.
With Genia and Lucas combining well, the Reds also showed enterprise in attack in a pulsating first half.
Three times fullback Mike Harris was put into holes out wide. On the third he set up position for a patient attack on the line that flanker Curtis Browning finally finished by ploughing over under the posts.
Harris’ radar boot was key for the Reds as he kicked five from five while the Highlanders were left to rue a controversial TMO decision disallowing a Ben Smith try.
Reds coach Richard Graham was full of praise for his forward pack and also Genia’s efforts directly opposite All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith.
“I thought Willy demonstrated tonight why he’s regarded as the best halfback in the world,” Graham said.
“I thought the way he controlled the game around the ruck and so forth was very good.”
Genia said his job was made much easier by his pack’s early dominance, and denied it was a conscious decision to probe more himself in attack.
“I just wanted to enjoy the occasion and go out there and have some fun, play with a smile on my face and that’s probably the best way to go,” he said.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said the Reds were the better team, deserved to win and felt they “out-passioned” his side for the first 50 minutes.
“What I’m proud of is that we scored 31 points in the second half and never gave in,” he said.