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Reds repress Force

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Sunday, March 12, 2006    Sportal.co.nz    Photosport

The Reds were on the wrong end of a 15-point deficit in the first-half after two impressive tries to the Force stunned a 21,737-strong crowd with tries inside the opening 25 minutes.

But the Queensland-based franchise kept the visitors scoreless in the second term with 19 unanswered points including the Reds' second and third tries of the evening from forwards Greg Holmes and Stephen Moore.

On the half-time siren, skipper John Roe reduced the margin with a converted try to kick-start the Reds' recovery.

After dominating the first-half, the Force faded out of the game after the break and even failed in their attempt to secure their first competition point thanks to Moore's late score.

Queensland struggled in the scrum and around the breakdown early, the Reds forwards too often keen to offload in the tackle rather than retaining possession.

But the second-half painted a different picture as constant pressure forced John Mitchell's side into conceding penalties, Julian Huxley converting two from two after replacing Elton Flatley as kicker.

Earlier, the Reds had opened the scoring through the boot of Flatley but spent large swathes of the rest of the first-half camped in their own territory as the Force defied its early season form to constantly trouble a shaky home-town defence.

The visitors had already taken the lead through a Scott Staniforth breakaway try on 10 minutes before the Reds' problems deepened when James Horwill was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle.

Cameron Shepherd capitalised on a misplaced pass from Sam Cordingley on halfway, kicking into open space before collecting his own punt and handing off to Staniforth for the centre to dive over.

And while the Reds were down to 14 men, the Force extended the margin from 8-3 to 18-3 when second-rower George Pusey found himself in space on the right flank after a delightful touch pass from Matt Henjack and the feed from Brendan Cannon.

Shepherd converted Pusey's try before adding his second penalty of the night after Rodney Blake was penalised for fighting following further turmoil in the Reds scrum.

But Roe burst through a static Force defence in the half's dying stages on his return to the run-on side to give the score an air of respectability before Flatley converted a penalty of reduce the margin to five points early in the second.

Blake was reprieved for another unnecessarily reckless piece of play when the giant prop joined from the side of the ruck only 35 metres from his own line but Shepherd struck the upright with the penalty.

And that miss signalled the Reds to wrestle the initiative despite coach Jeff Miller forced into rearranging his midfield with Ben Tune and Drew Mitchell replacing the injured Flatley and the ineffective Lloyd Johansson.

As the pressure on the Force intensified, Huxley kept his composure with two penalties to hand the Reds a 19-18 advantage before Holmes and Moore drove over in the final moments to make the game safe.

Reds 29 (Roe, Holmes, Moore tries, Flatley 1 con, Flatley 2, Huxley 2 pens)
Force 18 (Staniforth, Pusey tries, Shepherd 1 con, Shepherd 2 pens) HT: Force 18-10