Reds notch rare shut-out in Highlanders rout

Murray Wenzel |

The Queensland Reds have revived their Super Rugby season with a 31-0 shut-out of the Highlanders.
The Queensland Reds have revived their Super Rugby season with a 31-0 shut-out of the Highlanders.

The Queensland Reds’ first shut-out win since 1999 has rebooted their Super Rugby Pacific season, despite the prospect of a serious shoulder injury to star back Jordan Petaia.

Despite missing suspended Wallabies pair Tate McDermott and Fraser McReight, the Reds were methodical in their historic 31-0 dismantling of the battling Highlanders on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium.

The four-try triumph, featuring water-tight defence and countless turnovers from the visitors inside their own 22, was the first time they haven’t conceded a point since an 11-0 defeat of the Hurricanes in 1999.

That was the Reds’ only other clean Super Rugby sheet, Queensland beating ACT 33-0 in Inter-State Competition in 1992, before the arrival of Super 6. They boast just 10 shut-outs in all competition dating back to 1978. 

Victory improved Les Kiss’s side to 4-4 and snapped a three-game losing streak, while it also gave them two wins against New Zealand opposition in a season for the first time since 2013.

They’re now 2-1 against trans-Tasman rivals under Kiss – including an extra-time loss to the unbeaten Hurricanes – with games against the Blues and Crusaders to come.

Suliasi Vunivalu scores a try.
Suliasi Vunivalu was among the scorers as the Reds dismantled the Highlanders. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

“I’ve done it a few times, but it’s tougher in the last five years,” Kiss, who spent a decade coaching in Europe before taking the Reds job this year, said of the feat.

“The game’s opened up, the laws and how it’s reffed … there’s more access to points. 

“It’s a long time since the Reds have done it.”

Kiss said his side “haven’t been far away” during their three-game losing streak.

“We worked through what we felt we had to get right,” he said. “It didn’t come through in a flowing way. It was tougher and grittier and we found a solution.

“It’s not about being perfect it’s about being effective when you have to be.”

Two-time World Cup talent Petaia, off contract beyond this year and attracting NRL and foreign interest, limped off clutching his right shoulder after attempting a tackle in the first half.

He’ll have scans on Saturday, with Kiss confirming “there is an issue in his shoulder, for sure”.

Jordan Petaia walks off injured.
Jordan Petaia’s shoulder injury was the only sour note for the Reds. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Fellow midfielder Hunter Paisami starred though, scoring the first try and setting up two more with his hands and feet for Lawson Creighton and Suliasi Vunivalu respectively.

He also helped 21-year-old five-eighth Tom Lynagh direct traffic and produced a handful of clever and incisive in-play kicks to escape trouble or gain territory.

Ryan Smith scored the other try, the in-form lock surging over after 19 patient phases to establish an early 17-0 lead.

The Highlanders (2-6) barely fired a shot in a fifth-straight loss, continually turned over by a combination of Reds pressure and unforced errors.

It was only the fourth time since the competition’s inception in 1996 the Highlanders had been kept scoreless, and the first in five years.

“Tough to take, that one,” Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody said.

“We’re a proud team. We definitely are. The challenge is now down to the boys to compete and we got outcompeted by the Reds tonight.

“That, I guess, would be something that is quite personal to rugby players.

“At home (against the Western Force) the team will change, as it does after a game like this.”

AAP