Queensland showed that where there’s no Will there’s still a way to win with his replacement Nick Frisby steering the Reds to a 36-20 Super Rugby victory over the Melbourne Rebels.
The Reds were tipped to struggle without injured halves Will Genia or Quade Cooper at AAMI Park but Frisby scored two first-half tries to help establish a match-winning lead.
Skipper James Horwill was back to his bullocking best and also pulled off a try-saving tackle to see his side avenge their round-14 loss to Melbourne, when a controversial late penalty gave the Rebels a three-point win.
The home side looked like the Melbourne of old as errors and penalties littered their game to give the Reds a leg-up; the loss their third in succession.
Queensland suffered a blow five minutes in when Dom Shipperley was stretchered from the field.
The Queensland winger, who last week signed to join the Rebels, looked to have suffered a badly broken lower leg when he fell over a tackled player.
The five-minute time-out while he was being treated hit the Rebels hard and after a strong start they soon lost their way as Shipperley’s replacement, Lachie Turner, scored.
Turner then found himself back on the sidelines after taking out five-eighth Bryce Hegarty in the air.
However Melbourne were unable to take advantage and Reds fullback Mike Harris, who is also set to join the Rebels in 2015, scored for a 12-3 lead.
Frisby then added his two tries – both strikingly similar with the ball popping out the back of a maul for him to dive over – and the visitors had their bonus point for four tries before half time with a 22-3 lead.
Turner then touched down for his second before the Rebels finally got their first try through halfback Luke Burgess, in his first game back from a knee injury.
The Rebels showed some fight and added another through Hegarty, who beat Turner in a foot-race to the ball.
They then scored through Mitch Inman after the final siren but it was too little too late with Queensland’s six tries too big a target to reel in.
Melbourne coach Tony McGahan said it was frustrating to watch his team fall away in the last three games, also losing to NSW and the Brumbies, to sit at the bottom of the Australian conference.
He said the Rebels were comprehensively out-played by the Reds and too often they looked for soft options.
“I thought the Reds forward pack was excellent and really held things together in the set piece; mauled really effectively,” McGahan said.
“They really got themselves in the game.”
He admitted that discipline – with a 10-4 penalty count against them at halftime – was hurting them.
“We put ourselves in bad positions … and that’s a thing that’s been creeping into our game of late and something we need to get rid of quickly because it’s putting a lot of pressure on ourselves.”
Shipperley was already in hospital awaiting surgery with the early diagnosis a fractured dislocation of his ankle, according to Queensland coach Richard Graham.
The injury was the only sour note on an otherwise impressive outing for the Reds.
Horwill praised his team for the way they held their nerve when they were down a man – after the Turner yellow card – but still managed to score.
“We played very well in trying conditions in the wind,” Horwill said.
“The best period of play was probably when we were down to 14 men.
“We kept them under pressure and got some pay out of it which is quite tough in this competition.”
Graham was delighted with the contribution of his young halves Frisby and Ben Lucas.
“I thought Nick managed the game well,” Graham said.
“Both of them did a really good job and were helped out by the other guys in the squad that made their job easier.”
The Rebels play out the season with two games in South Africa while the Reds take on the Western Force in Perth.