The Queensland Reds sank to the bottom of the overall Super Rugby standings after a 43-22 loss to the Bulls in South Africa on Sunday morning (AEST).
Continuing their forgettable season, the struggling Reds could only hold on for so long at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld before they were inevitably dealt their sixth consecutive defeat.
It was about as encouraging as a 21-point failure could possibly be under the circumstances.
Richard Graham’s troops battled manfully without some key names and refused to lie down but ultimately lacked the firepower to make their second half comeback count.
Following the Blues’ first win of the season over the ACT Brumbies on Friday, Queensland are now officially the worst team in the competition, two points adrift of their nearest rivals Western Force.
With chief playmaker Quade Cooper back on the sidelines with injury and livewire James O’Connor struggling with a calf issue, Queensland’s attack lacked cutting edge.
Particularly in the first half, they had significant stretches of possession but were unable to breach a disciplined Bulls defence.
Goalkicker Lachie Turner also struggled to find his range at altitude, hitting just one from four attempts.
Warm favourites heading into the match, the Bulls – who rested Springboks trio Jan Serfontein, Handre Pollard and Adriaan Strauss – established a 10-0 lead after an early penalty and a breakaway try to Francois Hougaard that started deep in their own half.
The Reds responded just after the quarter hour with a clever chip-and-chase from makeshift flyhalf Nick Frisby opening up Turner for a run through on the right.
But the Bulls crossed twice more in short order – first through Pierre Spies, then again through Hougaard – to establish a comfortable 24-5 halftime lead.
It would have been easy for Queensland to lie down at that point but Will Genia’s try five minutes into the second stanza at least gave them a spark.
The France-bound halfback came away with the ball from an attacking scrum and somehow crawled his way to touch down under the posts, setting up Turner for an easy conversion.
Genia provided the kick for a Frisby five-pointer almost immediately afterwards to reduce the margin to 24-17.
But the Bulls were able to weather the storm, withstand another Queensland try through Mario Kotze – who finished off a brilliant run from the bustling Samu Kerevi – and close out the game with relative ease.