The Queensland Reds piled on seven tries to record a thrilling 41-35 victory over the Blues in their opening trial game of 2013 in Toowoomba on Saturday.
The encounter was the perfect hit-out for a Reds team that will next week welcome back a number of Wallabies for their second and final trial game against 2012 Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs, at Stockland Stadium Sunshine Coast.
The Reds attacking juggernaut hit top gear against the Blues with forwards Adam Wallace-Harrison and Liam Gill both crossing the line twice, while James Hanson, Radike Samo and Rod Davies all produced five-pointers.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said the match was exactly what the team needed as they continue their preparations for their season-opening Super Rugby affair against the Brumbies in Canberra on February 16.
"There are certain things we are working on at the moment to make sure we are right for the first game against the Brumbies and there's a lot we can take out of this match," McKenzie said.
"We tested out a number of things that we wanted to be better at than last year, which we were.
"Some of our breakdown work and some of the detail were better. Our scrum and line-out was able to generate a lot of pressure and we got reasonable ball out of that.
"I said to the guys that it's a trial game but it's also a selection trial. You have to put your best foot forward. You don't have to say much before the game, everyone understands the circumstances.
"They get an opportunity to play out there and get to show where they are up to in terms of form.
"There was good pressure the whole way and we've got a lot of work to concentrate on during the next few weeks."
There was plenty to like about the Reds performance in Toowoomba with McKenzie choosing to run two separates line-ups across the two halves of the match, with only flyhalf Quade Cooper, fullback Mike Harris and lock Adam Wallace-Harrison seeing extended game time.
In the opening 40 minutes Radike Samo produced a number of trademark big hits, flyer Luke Morahan recorded three linebreaks down the right touchline and back row forwards Nigel Ah Wong and Eddie Quirk were busy at the breakout.
Playmaker Quade Cooper also flashed moments of brilliance in a strong 60 minute performance, which also included two conversions, while scrumhalf pairing Ben Lucas and Nick Frisby were equally as impressive in their time wearing the number nine jersey.
The Reds started slower than their opposition and found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard early when Blues prop Angus Ta'avao and Ronald Raaymakers both crashed over to give the visitors an early 14-0 lead.
However, it didn't take long for the Reds to hit top gear, when Wallace-Harrison scored the first of his two tries with a close-range pick-and-go effort.
It was Lucas who provided the spark for the Reds second try as he hit a hard-running James Hanson close to the line, bringing the score to 14-12 late in the opening stanza.
A tighthead scrum on the stroke of half-time gave the Reds one final chance and they didn't disappoint when Samo darted down the blindside for the team's third try and a 17-14 lead at the break.
A raft of changes to begin the second half didn't appear to impact the Reds momentum and within five-minutes Rod Davies further extended their lead after showing plenty of strength in a burrowing effort to the line.
Frisby was another to make an immediate impact from the bench as a decision to take a quick tap put Cooper through the Blues defence while he also threw the final pass to see Wallace-Harrison score his second try.
The Blues produced two amazing moments in the space of minutes to get back into the match with two length of the field tries midway through the second half putting the game in the balance at 29-28 with a quarter of the match remaining.
But, the Reds answered the challenge and replied immediately through Liam Gill, his try converted by Mike Harris from the sideline giving the home side an eight-point lead.
The stage was set for a grandstand finish after the Blues narrowed the margin to 36-35 with nine minutes remaining although it was Gill who once again pushed his way over from the base of the ruck to see the Reds finish the game on top.
The Reds will now turn their attention to their second trial game against Chiefs on the Sunshine Coast next Friday, February 8 - while the Blues face the Highlanders the same day.
For the Queensland Reds:
Tries: Wallace-Harrison 2, Gill 2, Hanson, Samo, Davies
Cons: Cooper 2, Harris
For the Blues:
Tries: Ta'avao, Raaymakers, Nikoro, Saili, Visinia
Cons: McKenzie 5
Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Anthony Faingaa (captain), 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Eddie Quirk, 6 Nigel Ah Wong, 5 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 4 Blake Enever, 3 Jono Owen, 2 James Hanson, 1 Albert Anae.
Replacements - from: Curtis Browning, Jarrad Butler, Rod Davies, Saia Faingaa, Nick Frisby, Liam Gill, Greg Holmes, Jono Lance, Tom Murday, UJ Seuteni, James Slipper, Rex Tapuai, Aidan Toua.
Blues: 15 Marty McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid (captain), 6 Kane Barrett, 5 Ronald Raaymakers, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements - from: Albert Nikoro, Lolagi Visinia, Pita Ahki, Francis Saili, Jamison Gibson-Park, Joe Edwards, Sean Polwart, Brendon O'Connor, Steven Luatua, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Tim Perry, Quentin MacDonald.
Referee: James Leckie (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
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