Harry Wilson has done as directed to help pilot the Queensland Reds to a 23-5 victory over the Melbourne Rebels in a dour Super Rugby Pacific opener in Brisbane.
The No.8 produced a moment of magic in a game riddled with errors, spinning in a tackle and reaching to somehow plant the ball for a decisive second-half try.
He showed clean hands in the heavy rain and constantly made ground around the ruck, while a try-saving tackle in the first half stopped the Rebels from drawing level.
One of the first picked in Dave Rennie’s 2020 Wallabies side, Wilson was left in Australia for the Spring Tour last year to instead benefit from a full-preseason of development.
He’s presented in fine form and was a bright spot in a largely forgettable first-round clash on a wet night at Suncorp Stadium.
“He’s worked a lot athletically with his running technique, in the gym,” Reds coach Brad Thorn said of 22-year-old Wilson.
“And he’s another year older; he came in at 20 and it’s been foot to floor since then.
“I doesn’t matter what I think, that’s the decision they (Wallabies selectors) made and we’re glad to have him back and get that time to work on your game.
“Rugby at the highest level can be a long calendar.”
Centre Josh Flook provided the other highlight on the night, a cross-field kick off the outside of his boot in traffic to find impressive fullback Jock Campbell for a try in the final seconds.
The Reds led 13-5 at halftime, Brad Wilkin’s try off a precise driving maul from a Rebels lineout bringing the visitors some joy before the break.
The points came just as Taniela Tupou, who scored the opener, was preparing to return from a yellow card given for deliberate offside while the Rebels peppered the line.
When Tupou dived over in the left corner it marked a 22nd try in 79 games, putting him equal sixth on the list in Super Rugby for the Reds.
Melbourne, missing injured Wallabies Andrew Kellaway and Rob Leota, knocked back kickable penalty opportunities three times in the first half, prepared to pursue the try in line with new coach Kevin Foote’s bold approach.
He didn’t regret that, just the errors that began from the opening minute when Reds recruit Carter Gordon spilt his first touch deep in his own in-goal area.
The No.10 and fullback Reece Hodge battled with the boot too, both missing their targets while Reds No.15 Campbell was refreshingly clean as he made his own statement to Rennie.
“Both those players have high standards and they’re not going to be happy with their games,” Foote said.
“We’re scratching our heads a bit about that … I said to the boys I can’t take a positive bar maybe Brad Wilkin at the breakdown and Tamati (Ioane) on debut.”
The Rebels could be without hooker Jordan Uelese (ribs) next week while the Reds will assess a potential shoulder injury for Liam Wright and Hunter Paisami’s mid-week knee knock that forced his late scratching.