The Queensland Reds have broken their Super Rugby shackles with a record 53-3 demolition of the Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium.
Nothing went right for the Rebels after they hit the lead in the fifth minute on Friday night and the Reds piled on the pain for a fledgling franchise battling to cope with an injury crisis.
Coming into the round five clash with just three tries from their three previous matches, the 2010 entertainers rediscovered their mojo with a seven-try blitz.
But it wasn’t orchestrated through the razzle-dazzle of a talent-laden backline.
The Reds pack dominated the visitors at the breakdown and wreaked havoc in the lineout, the Rebels disintegrating on their own throw.
The Rebels’ scrum, which did concede a second-minute tight-head, came away with its reputation intact on an otherwise bewildering night.
Beaten 43-0 by NSW in their competition debut last month, Rod Macqueen’s men suffered the ignominy of being on the receiving end of the Reds’ biggest ever win in 16 seasons of Super Rugby.
The Victorians failed to handle the steamy conditions which made handling difficult and the Reds punished their numerous mistakes.
Queensland led 25-3 at halftime in front of an delighted crowd of 22,031 and could have even been more ruthless, letting slip at least three prime try-scoring chances.
However, none was as embarrassing as Rebels prop Greg Somerville who botched a certain five-pointer when he dropped the ball over the line with the visitors trailing 15-3 midway through the first half.
Wallabies five-eighth Quade Cooper, the man of the match, set up the Reds opening try by centre Anthony Faingaa in the eighth minute with a kick and regather and perfect cut-out pass.
Former Brumbies lock Adam Wallace-Harrison, starting his first Super Rugby match in three years, was also a stand-out at the lineout and dived over a goal-line ruck for the second try.
New Zealand backline recruit Mike Harris chimed in off the bench for two tries in two minutes and also set up and converted the final try by Luke Morahan to eclipse Queensland’s previous highest score of 52-16 against the Crusaders in 1996.
The Rebels ran up a total of 53 missed tackles.
“Unfortunately we weren’t up to the level,” said Rebels skipper Stirling Mortlock. “Missed tackles and turnovers, we just couldn’t mount any pressure on these guys.”
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie admitted his side left more tries begging on the paddock and felt the Rebels sorely missed fullback Mark Gerrard (shoulder) and flanker Michael Lipman (ankle), their most recent casualties.
“A few injuries make a massive difference to a team and I think we saw that tonight,” McKenzie said.
Counterpart Macqueen bluntly said his side “didn’t turn up”.
“We’re obviously very disappointed with the way we played and we’re disappointed with our consistency,” he said.
“We have been disrupted by injuries but a team should play better than that.
“Queensland did some really good things but I’m disappointed with the way we let ourselves down.
“We never got off the ground.”
Making matters even worse, the Rebels are bracing themselves for more bad news on the injury front with centre Lachie Mitchell sent to have X-rays on his hand.