Impressive Reds must capitalise on chances
COACH Brad Thorn is spot on to urge a more ruthless streak from the Reds because there is no such thing as a sweet near-miss against a Kiwi rival despite all the upbeat signs in Dunedin.
The Queenslanders will have to harness all the same intensity, attacking verve and more to challenge the champion Crusaders in a mouth-watering clash at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The Highlanders may have grabbed Friday's thriller 36-31 with five minutes to play but it was the Reds not making more of a dominant period 15 minutes from full-time which really cost them a grand upset.
The Reds were 31-29 ahead when replacement hooker Alex Mafi bungled a perfect attacking platform with a wonky lineout throw 20m out just a few minutes after a wasteful forced pass did not capitalise on the inroads from bench prop Harry Hoopert.
They are the small moments that make a big difference just as the lack of concentration was to concede a tighthead scrum and the game on full-time against the Melbourne Rebels in the trial earlier this month.
Overwhelming, the takeaways from the opening volleys in Dunedin were positive and not just because centre Samu Kerevi and Jordan Petaia rampaged for 246 running metres, broke seven tackles and made 21 runs between them.
Try-scoring prop Feao Fotuaika stepped up in the dominant scrum, flyhalf Hamish Stewart played with composure, new goalkicker Bryce Hegarty slotted five-from-five and Izack Rodda drove the pack like the leading Wallabies lock he is.
The Rodda try just after half-time was so good because it was Kiwi-style precision with active support players over 90m to make the most of a turnover.
Young Isaac Lucas, 20 just two weeks ago, ran on for the final 10 minutes for a debut at fullback.
"The boys put in a big effort. We had the edge there but it's about putting the foot on the throat and we missed that opportunity," Thorn said.
"We'll continue to work to get that ruthlessness as a team.
"A lot of good stuff happened for us and I appreciated the composure when we were two tries down."
Lucas was rapt to join older brother Ben on the honour roll as a Queensland player.
"Ben played for Queensland for a number of years and I was always out at Suncorp Stadium watching so to actually be a part of it is an absolute dream come true," Lucas said.
"I'll cherish every minute ... Queensland is very special to me."
The clash against the Crusaders should be a beauty because the four tries of Dunedin did show that the Reds have extra strikeepower this season and weapons that can hurt the best sides.
Injured prop JP Smith (knee) missed the match but may get back into contention for selection this week.