Refereeing stole the show on Friday night as the Reds cruised to a comfortable win over the Sunwolves.
What are we talking about after the 48-27 result?
1. O’Keeffe over-officiates, again
Referee Ben O’Keeffe has been a serial offender this Super Rugby season and his howler on Friday night was quite possibly the softest red card rugby has ever seen. As a guide, it’s worth comparing Johnny Faauli’s sickening hit in the Chiefs-Hurricanes clash which preceded the Reds-Sunwolves match. Faauli’s sickening hit on Hurricanes centre Wes Goosen was high, brandished excessive force and reckless in that he never tried to wrap his arms. Quirk’s “love tap” – as Reds coach Brad Thorn put it – was careless at best. It was hardly worthy of a penalty, let alone a red card, and World Rugby must act or risk thousands of fans turning their back on the code.
2. Reds on the road to recovery
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It’s a shame O’Keeffe’s officiating will overshadow this Reds win, as it marked their best season haul since 2013 – when they last played finals. Six wins is two more than the side could manage last year and if they are able to add another two or three wins in 2019, finals will be well within their reach.
3. Stewart steps up
Hamish Stewart started the season on the bench before forcing his way into the starting XV at fullback but against the Sunwolves, he played his best game at flyhalf yet. His general field kicking controlled the game, his passing was accurate and the decision to pass, kick or run was largely spot on. As a 20-year-old, he already looks to be Queensland’s great white hope at 10.
4. Smith steals spotlight
He may be turning 38 tomorrow but departing legend George Smith is no more comfortable in front of camera now than he was in 2000, when he made his Super Rugby debut for the Brumbies. The superstar flanker received plenty of air time on the Fox Sports coverage and wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself. Farewell, George – thanks for the memories.
5. Crowds still a concern
Just over 11,000 people turned up at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night – a figure near enough to the average attendance at Reds games this season. Brisbane crowds demand success and coach Brad Thorn must lead his side back to the promise land if the Reds are going to put bums on seats. Build it and they will come.