Queensland coach Richard Graham says Will Genia has shown why he’s been the best No.9 in the world in the Reds’ Super Rugby upset of the Highlanders.
Will Genia solved one major Wallabies’ concern before their three-Test series against France with a return to his best form in his 100th Queensland match.
Genia celebrated his milestone in style on Friday night, starring in a man-of-the-match display in the Reds’ thrilling 38-31 Super Rugby upset of the Highlanders.
Criticised for shelving his running game in the Reds’ six-match losing streak, the 55-Test halfback has been under pressure to keep Australia’s No.9 jersey from Nic White and Nick Phipps.
But he was back to his best at Suncorp Stadium, running and creating breaks, to ensure he’ll be starting in a gold jersey at the same ground next Saturday night against the French.
“I thought Willy demonstrated tonight why he’s been regarded as the best halfback in the world,” Reds coach Richard Graham said.
“I thought the way that he controlled the game around the ruck and so forth was very, very good.”
As well as his probing runs, it was a delayed Genia pass to Jake Schatz in the 18th phase after the fulltime hooter that finally gave the Reds victory as the No.8 powered over for the ninth try of a cracking match.
“I’m really proud of the effort,” the vice-captain said. “We just showed what we can do against a good quality side.
“Not only can we score tries and score some points, but we can build pressure and show that composure to get a result.”
Genia’s kicking – long and short – was also a feature, setting up tries to wingers Rod Davies and Dom Shipperley for a 21-0 halftime lead.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie, who must settle on his captain this weekend, would also have been pleased to see locks Rob Simmons and James Horwill stand tall, and prop James Slipper produce a tireless display in his return from a three-week suspension.
All three put up strong cases to start against Les Bleus as the hungry Reds’ forwards dominated the set pieces, highlighted by a pushover try.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph gave full credit to the home side, saying the visitors would have been fortunate to jag a draw with their late fightback.
The result helps the NSW Waratahs and Western Force’s finals hopes but a return of the Reds’ confidence also means they’ll provide a tougher challenge in July derby clashes.
“We have to build momentum on the back of this,” Graham said.