The Reds produced an outstanding high-tempo decimation of the Rebels, running in six tries to win 36-20 at AAMI Park.
The Reds produced an outstanding high-tempo decimation of the Melbourne Rebels, running in six tries to win 36-20 at AAMI Park.
The Rebels Indigenous jersey was vastly more interesting than their play, as they folded under a show of strength and pace from the Reds in a soft performance in the opening 40. By the time they woke up at 29-3 down it was too late.
Pre-game expectations had been that the Reds would struggle without Will Genia or Quade Cooper in the XV for the first time in six years, but instead the Reds looked liberated.
Pushing the ball wide and attacking the space at speed, they continually found holes in the defence to attack. Nick Frisby's tenacity was rewarded with two tries – the number nine filling in for Will Genia with ease.
Dom Shipperley's unfortunate lower leg injury was bad news for both teams with the winger set to join the Rebels from the Reds next season, departing on a stretcher to generous applause.
Taking out Shipperley would normally dent the speed of a side, but not for the Reds with 'Rocket' Rod Davies around. Freed by Mike Harris the winger drew the last man and sent the replacement Lachie Turner sprinting over for the first try.
Turner's opening five minutes on as a replacement for Shipperley were busy, the former Wallaby heading straight back to the pine after being yellow carded for taking out Bryce Hegarty in the air. That was after Hegarty had scored the Rebels' first points with a penalty.
Harris couldn't overcome the breeze as his penalty attempt drifted onto the post to keep the score at 7-3, but the Rebels' possession woes continued.
Coughing up the ball not for the first time, the Reds capitalised as Ben Tapuai's grubber bounced up for Davies to feed Harris on his inside for the try.
In Brisbane the Rebels pack had controlled the set-piece and breakdown, but inspired by skipper James Horwill the Reds had things all their own way in the first half.
Taking the game to the Rebels at high speed and with Mitch Inman sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle, the Reds were relentless and crossed for their third try after 32 minutes when Frisby darted over after a good maul from his pack upfront, latching onto the offload from Greg Holmes.
Horwill was everywhere, preventing Tom Kingston from scoring a try after a chargedown and leading from the front.
Frisby's second before half-time saw him rekindle the partnership with Holmes, again from the back of a maul as the tighthead prop offloaded off the deck with Frisby evading the tackle of Luke Burgess for the bonus point.
Frankly, it was a limp and pathetic first half from the Rebels.
Initally the outcome in the second half looked set to be the same as Turner grabbed his second try – his first double in a Super Rugby fixture since back in 2010 with the Waratahs – to leave the Reds just short of the 30-point mark.
Someone had to front up for the Rebels and Shota Horie was the man to do it, the replacement Japanese hooker dummying his way through the defence and getting the Rebels behind the defensive line for Tom Kingston to unleash Burgess for the try.
Hegarty's fingertips gave the Rebels a second score as the fly-half outpaced Turner to the bounce of the ball, giving the hosts a small foothold in the contest at 13-29, but the road back was too long.
Adding a brilliant sixth try from Davies, after he was earlier called offside for rying to make an interception, was the cherry on top of arguably the Reds best game this season. The Biarritz-bound flyer skipped his way through three tackles for try number six.
Transformed from the dire side we've seen out of Suncorp for much of 2014, the Reds will finish nowhere near the playoffs but at least look like ending their season with a flourish.
Inman's consolation try for the Rebels came a little too late, as Woodward said goodbye to Melbourne in his final home game by landing the conversion.
Tries: Burgess, Hegarty, Inman
Yellow Card: Inman
Tries: Turner 2, Harris, Frisby 2, Davies
Cons: Harris 3
Yellow Card: Turner
Rebels: 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Jason Woodward, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Hugh Pyle, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Telusa Veainu, 23 Tom Kingston.
Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Ben Daley, 19 Dave McDuling, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Samuela Kerevi, 22 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 23 Lachie Turner.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)