The Queensland Reds' title defence is on life support after they were thumped 61-8 by a dominant Bulls outfit at Loftus Versfeld. It isn't the first time the Reds have been on the end of a master class from the Bulls, with memories of their 92-3 loss in Pretoria in 2007 still fresh in the minds of Queensland players and fans.
Coach Ewen McKenzie must be wondering who kicked the black cat because the Reds have had an awful run of luck this year both with injuries and suspensions. Before a ball was even kicked the Reds season had got off on the wrong foot, already missing their star playmaker and Wallabies fly half Quade Cooper (knee). They have since lost both backup options; Ben Lucas (hamstring) and Mike Harris (hamstring), Wallaby centre Anthony Faingaa (foot), Chris F'Sautia (hamstring), UJ Seuteni (hamstring) and Peter Hynes (knee) while winger Digby Ioane still has three games to serve of his suspension.
Against the Bulls on the weekend, the Reds injury woes were compounded when they lost Jono Lance (broken leg), Saia Faainga (ankle) and front rower Ben Daley. Coach Ewen McKenzie refused to use the bulging casualty ward as an excuse. "We let ourselves down with both our attitude and application," McKenzie said. "We went into the game with an attacking mindset but it at times compounded our problems, especially when we began to chase points."
Even with the loss of Faainga and Daley, the Reds were still in the contest at half time against the Bulls, only 16-3 down. But three quick tries after the resumption of play neutered any hopes of a heroic comeback. The Bulls forwards dominated at the break down and the Reds defence began to resemble the turnstiles of the stadium they were playing in. Bulls and Springboks five-eighth Morne Steyn enjoyed a perfect night with the boot, potting eight out of eight to amass a 19-point haul.
The Reds face the Western Force this weekend who will be licking their lips at the chance of coming up against a severely depleted Reds side. Such is the dearth of backs in the Reds squad that Coach McKenzie is facing the prospect of using back rower Radike Samo in the centres.
Despite a shocking injury toll and a side that is almost unrecognisable from the one that swept the rugby world by storm last year, it is still relatively early in the season and if the Reds can rally together and scrape into the finals with a fit and firing Quade Cooper, they still may be able to give the competition a shake. A lot can happen in just a few months.
Adam Schoenmaker is a high school chaplain in the northern suburbs of Brisbane for three days each week and serves two days a week in his local church. Adam loves a good book, a classic album and all Queensland sporting teams.
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