Is the Queensland Reds’ Super ride coming to an end in a flurry of missed chances and the lack of a ruthless streak?
Has the Queensland Reds’ slide begun?
So it seems after their gut-wrenching 32-29 Super Rugby loss to the Western Force at their own Suncorp Stadium fortress.
The defeat to a reborn team that’s playing with the belief and spirit they themselves first showed in their revival under Ewen McKenzie in 2010 has the Reds’ 11th and skating on thin ice.
For the first time in more than four years, Queensland (3-4) has an inferior win-loss record and the 2011 champions now face a crucial must-win home clash with the Brumbies on Friday night.
“It’s a huge game for us,” skipper James Horwill said after the three-tries-to-two loss. “It was always going to be but this result has magnified that.
“We’ve got six days to get it right.”
With the second-placed Brumbies (21), Waratahs (20) and Force (18) all in the top five, any further derby losses will have the Reds (15) falling out of finals contention – even in a tighter-than-ever competition.
Most troubling for Queensland in 2014 is the fact that, apart from the round two hammering by NSW, they fail to capitalise on try-scoring chances and also can’t put teams away.
It happened again against the Force, hitting the lead four times after bouncing back from an early 12-0 deficit – and then allowing Jayden Hayward to slip through for a 79th minute match-winner.
“I’m disappointed, and we’re all disappointed,” coach Richard Graham said. “We gave ourselves the lead at 29-25 and at that point there I thought we’d done enough.”
Like last year, when they still made the finals on the back of gutsy defence, they still lack attacking options outside Quade Cooper and Will Genia and are crying out for a dynamic back-row enforcer.
One positive is the expected return of Chris Feauai-Sautia from a hamstring injury but the return to form of Ben Tapuai could see him start on the wing.
Although Graham is confident Lachie Turner will also play the Brumbies, the former Wallabies flyer has been in a moonboot and will visit a specialist on Monday.