Queensland have put Karmichael Hunt’s drugs controversy to one side to post a gutsy Super Rugby win over the Western Force in Brisbane.
Thrashed 47-3 in their opening fixture against the Brumbies and rocked by the news Hunt is facing drug supply charges, the Reds held firm to claim an 18-6 victory on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 14,199 at Suncorp Stadium.
Lachie Turner, a late call-up to fullback after Hunt was stood down from the match, scored 13 points including a try, two penalty goals and a conversion.
Things started badly for the Reds when star recruit James O’Connor was ruled out minutes before kick-off after failing a pre-match medical.
The home team also played most of the match without skipper James Slipper (concussion) and Wallaby James Horwill (hand).
Despite those setbacks, the Reds took an early 6-0 lead through a pair of Turner penalties before the Force struck back with two penalties of their own from five-eighth Sias Ebersohn.
Turner’s try just before the break came after a thrilling passing move down the right wing, started by winger Chris Kuridrani, with Samu Kerevi feeding the Wallaby, who steamrolled Force winger Luke Morahan on his way to the tryline.
The Reds then recovered from the disappointment of a Kerevi effort being ruled out for a forward pass to force a penalty try in the 58th minute to extend their lead to 12 points.
The referee’s call sparked wild celebrations from stand-in skipper Will Genia, who was an inspirational figure amid so many casualties, helping to ease the pressure on stand-in No.10 Nick Frisby.
The Force were their own worst enemy at times, with replacement prop Chris Heiberg copping a first-half yellow card for a deliberate infringement and the visitors giving away 14 penalties.
The Reds also dominated the Force in the scrum, winning 12 of 18 in the match, a stat probably boosted by the away team’s early loss of loosehead prop Francois Van Wyk to injury.
Coach Michael Foley was also given a late headache when Chris Alcock limped off late in the second half with an apparent ankle injury.