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
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
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
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