Reds prop Izack Rodda is swamped by the Sunwoves defence.
Reds prop Izack Rodda is swamped by the Sunwoves defence. KIYOSHI OTA

Queensland players left Reds-faced

THE embarrassing 35-point flop in Tokyo has so rattled the Reds players even they must wonder which Queensland team will show up against the hot Hurricanes on Friday night.

The Reds were so bad on Saturday that they played Japan's Sunwolves into form because the 63-28 loss must be rated as one of Queensland rugby's most inept days in 23 seasons of professional rugby.

Any repeat and the Reds will be staring at another thrashing from Beauden Barrett's super-slick Hurricanes in Wellington.

It's a short turnaround for a huge challenge when the players thought they had taken a week of thorough preparation into Saturday's match in Tokyo.

"This game is not a hobby, you have to turn up mentally prepared because it's not an option to sort of turn up,” Reds coach Brad Thorn said.

"Not being there mentally was very frustrating and the guys have to realise they must bring their best stuff to Wellington to play against a frontrunner or ...”

Grant Hattingh drags Reds defenders over the tryline to score for the Sunwolves.
Grant Hattingh drags Reds defenders over the tryline to score for the Sunwolves. Koji Ito

Thorn didn't need to finish the sentence because the Hurricanes' nine-game winning streak and lapping the Reds (23) for try-power (46) speaks for itself.

The Reds played with terrific intensity to upset the Lions with a 27-0 start, yet either side of their last home game have gone missing when it mattered against the Chiefs and Sunwolves.

"That down-up-down inconsistency week-to-week is not good,” veteran George Smith said.

"We were humbled by the Sunwolves and their intensity, me included, and that performance was unacceptable.”

Only blaming the team's fluctuating intensity is a misnomer because one-out running in poorly organised attack, immature play and sloppy errors were also killers.

Taniela Tupou spills the ball after being hit by Sunwoves rival Timothy Lafaele.
Taniela Tupou spills the ball after being hit by Sunwoves rival Timothy Lafaele. KIYOSHI OTA

Flyhalf Jono Lance pinpointed poor concentration.

"There are ebbs and flows in every game and we were dwelling on penalties or errors rather than concentrating on the next five minutes to get the momentum back off the Sunwolves,” Lance said.

"We were way too passive and every part of our game has to be better for Wellington.”

A recall for skipper Scott Higginbotham will add some much-needed ball-running to the backrow but it is no cure-all.

Higginbotham tested his calf muscle with 40 minutes for his Wests club on Saturday and declared: "It was just good to play some footy and feel the calf backed up well the next day.”

Ben Lucas passes the ball wide against the Sunwolves.
Ben Lucas passes the ball wide against the Sunwolves. KIYOSHI OTA

Halfback Ben Lucas is on shaky ground because his passes from the ruckbase aren't immediate enough while Duncan Paia'aua would add something as a second playmaker.

On a rare occasion the Reds clicked, they rumbled ahead for 23 phases before Angus Scott-Young scored.

The Hamish Stewart crosskick to eye-catching winger Jordie Petaia was a beauty but when the inside pass was intercepted, with a try on, it became a 14-point turnaround to the Sunwolves.

The Reds didn't perform as favourites in Tokyo but that is one issue they won't have to worry about for Wellington.



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