Injuries to Queensland flankers Liam Gill and Lolo Fakaosilea overshadowed a 31-18 loss to the Brumbies in their Super Rugby trial at Ballymore on Friday night, but the Reds are hopeful both will be fit for the season-opener in a fortnight.
Gill, who this week announced he will leave the Reds to play in France at the end of the season, departed the game after 15 minutes clutching his right shoulder following a tackle on Brumbies winger Joe Tomane.
Gill’s back-row colleague Fakaosilea was also helped off the field with a hamstring injury during the second quarter.
Reds coach Richard Graham was relieved the injuries were not as bad as first feared, but the second successive convincing trial defeat – following the heavy 31-3 defeat to the Crusaders last week – suggests the club still have some way to go to convince their supporters they can improve on last season’s third-bottom finish in the overall standings.
Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore scored the opening try for the Brumbies, finishing off a rolling maul after eight minutes.
The Reds showed a similar lack of potency to the previous outing in the first half while the Brumbies were ruthless.
Brumbies No.8 Ita Vaea and scrum-half Tomas Cubelli both dived over from close range giving their side a 19-6 half-time lead.
Tevita Kuridrani added another try four minutes after the break, this time a controversial one as Tomane threw what looked like a forward pass to Scott Fardy leading up to the five-pointer.
The Reds scored two tries in the second half with scrum-half Nick Frisby and winger Eto Nabuli, on the final whistle, sandwiching a five-pointer from Brumbies replacement front-rower Robbie Abel.
Reds coach Graham is happy for the two-week break ahead of the start of their Super Rugby campaign in Sydney when he expects his star man Gill to take the field.
“Fakaosilea looks like he’s got a hamstring injury, I’m not sure as to how bad it is (and) I think Gill’s is just a knock on the shoulder,” Graham said.
“The reason for not playing next week is to make sure we don’t carry any injuries forward so that gives us two weeks to prepare and two weeks to get over any injuries like Gill.”
Graham feels his side are currently lacking the attacking instincts to match the better sides in the competition, such as their pre-season opponents.
“We could see in terms of the way we want to play but it’s not quite instinctive in attack at the moment,” Graham said.
“We’re probably just a yard off and that’s not helping us in either our carry or our breakdown.”
Brumbies coach Stephen Markham was particularly praiseworthy of the performance of summer import Cubelli and the combination he has already forged with his forwards.
“He’s just got a very good awareness around the rucks,” Latham said.
“He scored a try and made another couple of breaks and managed to get the ball out there under a lot of pressure.
“It was a good combination tonight, a very comprehensive (performance).”
The Brumbies take on the Hurricanes in Canberra on February 26 to open their Super Rugby campaign.