The Queensland Reds have shown little indication that they will bounce back from a disastrous 2015 season after being crushed 31-3 by the Crusaders in a Super Rugby trial at Ballymore on Saturday night.
After going into half-time three points in front, a penalty try, two scores from George Bridge and one from Jordan Taufua eventually left the Reds well in arrears.
It was certainly not the confidence booster Richard Graham’s team have hoped for three weeks before their season starts against the NSW Waratahs.
Three minutes before halftime, the Crusaders almost went in front when Sean Wainui was denied by a fine tackle from Samu Kerevi.
Five minutes after the break, a penalty try was awarded when Chris Kuridrani tipped away Mitchell Drummond’s pass to Bridge, who was waiting on the left wing to touch down.
Richie MoUnga, who came on at half-time at fly-half for Ben Volavola, notched the conversion from under the posts.
Bridge scored again on the stroke of three-quarter time, latching on to MoUnga’s grubber kick in the in-goal area after concerted pressure from the Crusaders.
Five minutes later, the winger weaved inside two would-be tacklers before scoring, after another pass from MoUnga.
Taufau dived over with six minutes remaining, and MoUnga converted for a fourth time, later adding a penalty to cap a performance that suggests he may have a lead on Volavola for the right to succeed Dan Carter in the Crusaders’ number ten jersey.
Reds coach Richard Graham looked to take positives from the way his team competed closely with the opposition while the first choice teams were on the field in the first half.
“There was a fair bit of stuff in the first half I was pretty happy with, certainly the way we set up offensively and defensively,” Graham said.
“We were probably guilty of not executing when we have opportunities.
“It was a good experience for the young kids in the second half. We had six 18 or 19 year-olds out there coming up against All Blacks and experienced Super Rugby players. Better to do that now than in round two or three.”
Crusaders boss Todd Blackadder was particularly pleased with his team’s defensive performance, which has been a core point of emphasis over the summer.
“For us it was a lot about our defence today – we’ve put a lot of work into it,” Blackadder said.
“It was something we were poor at last year. This was a good start and I’m really pleased with where were at.
“I was not so focused on the result it was about fitness levels being up, could we make decisions under pressure and whether wed start to see some of the hard work we put in.
“I think we’re on the right track.”