Quirk fills Higginbotham void at Reds
February 25, 2013
Video news report from Queensland Reds' victory over New South Wales Waratahs in Brisbane.%]
Queensland Reds have shown the loss of Wallabies back-rower Scott Higginbotham is the least of their problems in 2013.
In fact, Reds director of coaching Ewen McKenzie doesn't even see Higginbotham's move south to the Melbourne Rebels as an issue as raw-boned youngster Ed Quirk filled the void with aplomb in Saturday night's 25-17 success over NSW.
Quirk was Queensland's unexpected hero, running through Kane Douglas and three more Waratah defenders to set up a sparkling match-winning try to Ben Tapuai at Suncorp Stadium for a fourth straight interstate derby success.
The 21-year-old flanker has taken Higginbotham's place and teamed superbly with fellow young back-rowers Liam Gill and Jake Schatz to win the breakdown battle against NSW's Test-quality forward pack.
"Everyone asks what life is like without Higgers but I've said `we're not worried about it, we're really pleased with the guys coming through'," McKenzie said. "Quirky showed exactly why we think he's a good footballer."
Gill was just as influential, outperforming Wallabies teammate Michael Hooper after also standing up well against David Pocock in the opening round loss to the Brumbies. "All of his teammates have a massive respect for what he does," McKenzie said. "He's just a pest - he's there at every ruck in attack and defence doing something."
Where the problems do begin for the Reds is with preparations for Friday night's third-round clash against the hungry Hurricanes outfit, upset 34-20 by the Blues on Saturday, at home.
Queensland will again be without captain James Horwill as his ankle injury continues to plague the Wallabies lock longer than expected, while halfback general Will Genia (knee) is still another two to three weeks away from returning.
In a short turnaround, McKenzie will only have his full team available to train together on Tuesday due to a Wallabies logistics and promotions camp in Sydney.
But he's set to have defensive linchpin Anthony Faingaa (hand) fit and available, making for a major selection dilemma following an exceptional first game at centre by teenager Chris Feauai-Sautia, as well as Luke Morahan's impact off the bench at fullback.
"That's a good problem to have," McKenzie said.
The Reds adopted the same run-and-gun strategy they use against South African opponents to tire out the big Waratahs pack on Saturday night but a lack of precision in finishing attacking forays allowed NSW to stage a second-half comeback.
McKenzie lamented his side only led 17-3 at halftime due to their poor option-taking in space but praised Queensland's aggression and intent to retain the Bob Templeton Cup.
"I thought some of our tackling was of the highest order - the best I've seen," McKenzie said.