The pressure on Queensland Super Rugby coach Richard Graham has intensified after a disastrous 22-3 defeat to the Western Force at Suncorp Stadium.
It continued an abysmal start to the season by the inexperienced Reds, who again failed to fire a real shot in attack and showed little to suggest they weren’t in for a long, tough year ahead.
The Force held a small lead for most of Saturday night’s match but broke away late, and sealed the win through the game’s sole try from winger Luke Morahan on the fulltime siren.
Former Red Jono Lance came back to haunt his old side, booting four from four penalties and setting up Morahan’s try in front of 17,533 fans.
And as if the ongoing absence of Liam Gill, James Slipper and Kane Douglas wasn’t enough, there was more bad news for Queensland on the injury front.
Hooker Saia Fainga’a succumbed to what appeared to be an ankle injury midway through the first stanza, placing him in immediate doubt for next week’s home clash with the Melbourne Rebels, while a groggy Hendrik Tui also hobbled off late in the match.
After allowing Wallaby James Hanson to move to Melbourne in the off-season, Queensland’s only back-up hooker is the raw and inexperienced Andrew Reddy. He came off the bench for just his fifth Super Rugby cap and coughed up two costly second-half penalties.
Even import fullback Ayumu Goromaru had an off night with the boot on his Super Rugby starting debut – the Japanese star was recruited specifically for his dead-eye goalkicking but converted only two of his four penalty attempts.
Showers fell before kickoff but the damp conditions alone didn’t excuse a stodgy, error-riddled showing from both sides.
The Reds had 58 per cent of first-half possession but still trailed 9-3 at the break, unable to convert the ball they had into attacking opportunities as was the case a week earlier against the NSW Waratahs.
Fans had to wait until almost the stroke of halftime for the first real enterprising passage of play from Queensland – when former NRL players Eto Nabuli and Karmichael Hunt combined on a threatening break that ultimately fizzled out – but even then, it was the Force doing the scoring, with Jono Lance slotting his third penalty of the night on the siren.
The Reds were unable to conjure up anything resembling a fightback in the second half, despite closing to within six points at one stage, with their raw but powerful backline again unable to click.