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    Reds on their knees

    2012-04-02 07:49
    Sydney - The Reds are trying to come to terms with their road trip from hell, which has seriously affected their aspirations of being the first Australian side to win back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

    The Reds returned home to Brisbane on Sunday after three weeks in South Africa and Western Australia, where they lost to the Sharks, Bulls and Force, and had the devastating statistic of conceding 16 tries and 133 points.

    Their soul-destroying trip ended with them slipping from top spot to ninth and it will require a considerable form reversal to re-establish themselves as a tournament power.

    The seeds of the disaster emerged in the first half against the Sharks in Durban when they lost playmakers Mike Harris and Ben Lucas to injury.

    With their No 1 flyhalf Quade Cooper not expected to be available until near the end of the competition, the Reds have had to field their fourth No 10, Dallan Murphy, in their past two matches, and the Bulls and Force have targeted the inexperienced youngster to devastating effect.

    While the Reds pack remains intact, there have been problems out wide, with an inexperienced back line struggling to cope with the intensity of the Bulls, who obliterated them 61-8 in Pretoria, while the Force succeeded in exposing a distinct lack of understanding when they played at pace.

    Nonetheless, the Reds forwards are far from blameless; their intensity has dropped off and their mistake rate in the past fortnight has been embarrassing. Reds captain James Horwill appeared astounded after the Force loss that they had suffered their second straight thrashing.

    When reminded the Reds had conceded more than 130 points in their past three games, Horwill said: ''It's not good enough, and individuals need to have a look at what they are doing. It's unacceptable.

    ''We're not performing as a group. Injuries happen, but it isn't an excuse. Playing the Brumbies next week will be a big game and it is a must win for us.''

    The only blemish in an otherwise faultless Force performance was the citing of replacement forward Phoenix Battye for allegedly lifting Will Genia in a tackle and driving him backwards dangerously.

    Rebels wing Cooper Vuna has been suspended for two weeks, after lifting Highlanders winger Kade Poki in a tackle and dropping him to the ground.

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