A tense week awaits at Ballymore after Queensland’s hollow loss to the Western Force raised fresh questions over the tenure of embattled coach Richard Graham.
The rookie Reds were tipped for a dire Super Rugby campaign and those predictions appear to be right on the money following a limp 22-3 defeat to the reigning wooden spooners at Suncorp Stadium.
Fans hoping for at least a glimpse of promise from this rebuilding squad were instead dished up a reminder of why so many supporters were demanding change at the end of last season.
Grahams’s side were soundly beaten across the park, lacked cohesion in attack, dropped far too much ball and gave away many silly penalties, playing into the hands of the Force’s field position game
Their one area of strength – the set piece – failed to bring any scoreboard reward.
There were only 17,535 people on hand to see the carnage unfold on Saturday night, and that number is likely to dwindle week-on-week unless something changes, and fast.
“They’d probably be as disappointed as I am,” Graham said.
“We had expectation based on what we’ve been working hard on and we didn’t deliver on that tonight.
Graham was re-appointed as coach in the face of overwhelming fan discontent, despite overseeing a four-win season and holding a poor 28 per cent winning record at Super Rugby level.
Back-to-back losses to open the new season have loosened his already tenuous grip on the job, and another loss at home to the Blues on March 19 will surely force the hand of new Queensland Rugby Union chairman Damien Frawley.
That is also the date of the QRU’s annual general meeting, and follows the departure of chairman Rod McCall, one of Graham’s biggest backers, last month, a move which renewed speculation over the coaching position.
And it will get no easier for the under-fire mentor after what appeared to be a serious ankle injury to hooker Saia Fainga’a, a first-half casualty.
The only back-up to the former Wallaby is five-gamer Andrew Ready, who came off the bench against the Force and gave up two costly penalties when the game was in the balance.
“(Fainga’a) has got a plantar fascia injury that he’s carried for a while. He became a little bit angry so we have to assess it,” Graham said.
Hendrik Tui also hobbled off late in the second half, but only with cramp, meaning he will be fit to face the Rebels in Melbourne next weekend.