Values and attack have made winners of Brad Thorn’s Reds

Attending the Reds win over the Brumbies on Saturday night was bloody brilliant! Over 41,000 passionate fans came to Suncorp Stadium to cheer on their team. The crowd in the platinum seats was younger and livelier than at a Test match – maybe that is something to do with the much more affordable ticket prices […]

Values and attack have made winners of Brad Thorn’s Reds

Attending the Reds win over the Brumbies on Saturday night was bloody brilliant!

Over 41,000 passionate fans came to Suncorp Stadium to cheer on their team. The crowd in the platinum seats was younger and livelier than at a Test match – maybe that is something to do with the much more affordable ticket prices – and it made for a fantastic atmosphere. There was no need for the call ‘We are Red!’ to go up over the loudspeaker, because the crowd initiated it themselves for the first time that I have ever heard since watching the 2011 final on TV.

The best bit of the night was seeing the men who have worked so hard to win the silverware for Queensland being ecstatic at their rise into the pantheon of Queensland sporting heroes.

The Reds’ journey over the last four years to get there was tough, especially for head coach Brad Thorn. There have been plenty who have knocked his values-based approach to coaching, but Queensland Rugby Union supported Thorn, and he returned the faith invested in him by building a team with principles, passion, work ethic and grit.

Brad Thorn (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Thorn’s high standards have created an environment where the team and coaching staff can flourish. Other teams may be slightly better at one aspect of rugby or another, but the Reds currently play the most well-rounded game in Australia. With brilliant attack coach Jim McKay the Reds are well ahead of the rest in attack, which has been an investment several years in the making.

The Reds’ ability to take their chances, attack from anywhere on the park and play an unstructured game has provided them with an edge in all three games against the Brumbies.

This was demonstrated particularly in Game 1 when Hunter Paisami took the risk to give up possession and put a grubber kick through to set up a miracle Jordan Petaia try and the win.

In Game 2 Josh Flook scored off a brilliant ensemble play that started 60 metres from the try line with a cross-field kick from James O’Connor to Jock Campbell. Petaia scored again with a spectacular jumping try off an O’Connor high ball.

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Game 3 was a forward-dominated arm wrestle with four of the Reds’ biggest attacking threats, Paisami, Petaia, Harry Wilson and Suliasi Vunivalu, being off the park at the end of the match when their side usually close out the game. However, Flook’s excellent run from past halfway in the 73rd minute gained critical field position against the Brumbies in yet another example of how the Reds attack played a critical role in the win.

That the Reds scored fewer tries than the Brumbies this season is irrelevant to the impact of their attack. It has given them the confidence that they have the tools to play the 80 minutes. Their opponents have come at them like a bull at a gate and have got ahead of them only to be run down later. It has also made them unpredictable, which has to complicate defensive preparations for opponents.

In contrast, the Brumbies approach in attack largely remains to get into the opposing team’s half and either score off the rolling maul or spin the ball wide to break down the defence, creating opportunities for their outside backs to score. It is effective but has become predictable compared to the Reds approach.

Immediately prior to the game I observed the Reds’ preparation and it consisted of almost entirely set-piece work, rolling maul defence and work under the high ball. It was very clear that their objective was to keep the Brumbies in their own half for as much of the game as possible, thus denying them scoring opportunities.

What is now needed is for other Australian franchises to embrace training in a less structured attack like the Reds have so that our best players can use it when they play for the Wallabies. If the Reds can make it this far in three seasons, at least the Brumbies should be able to do so before the 2023 Rugby World Cup, because they already have a foundation of excellence.

Of course the Reds need to keep working to improve those areas of play where others have excelled – that our teams hold each other to account has been the big strength of Super Rugby AU.

The next chapter for the Reds is to test themselves against the Kiwis in the toughest provincial rugby competition in the world. The Reds will undoubtedly acquit themselves well and continue the fight to be the best, while tens of thousands of us who have loved the journey over the last four years will continue to cheer for Brad Thorn’s Reds.

Source : The Roar More   

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The straight story: How scrum trumped lineout in the Super Rugby AU final

In the end, justice was done – probably. The Queensland Reds were the best team in Super Rugby AU over the course of the season, winning seven of their eight pre-final games and edging their closest rivals on all of the three occasions they played. At the post-match press conference on Saturday night, Brumbies head […]

The straight story: How scrum trumped lineout in the Super Rugby AU final

In the end, justice was done – probably. The Queensland Reds were the best team in Super Rugby AU over the course of the season, winning seven of their eight pre-final games and edging their closest rivals on all of the three occasions they played.

At the post-match press conference on Saturday night, Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar looked pale, struggling to disguise his anger at some of the refereeing decisions behind a thin mask of propriety.

“I’m shattered, gutted. Incredibly proud, but there’s not a lot to say,” he said.

“It’s heart-breaking. I couldn’t be prouder of the boys that wore a Brumbies jersey tonight, I thought they were brilliant. We came here, with backs to the wall, a lot of injuries out of last week. We’re shattered.”

Prompted on his side’s three yellow cards – two of them in the final three minutes of normal time – he replied pointedly.

“Just as long as everyone is accountable for their performances out there tonight. I know the players are and the coaches are. That’s my only hope.”

There are no prizes for identifying who else McKellar was referring to with “everyone”.

“Thirteen blokes, in the end it just became incredibly tough for us to hold them out, the boys were exhausted. Yeah, it’s an interesting game to watch.”

Dan McKellar. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

Later, McKellar praised the Reds.

“They hung in there. I congratulate Queensland, and I congratulate the Queensland people… it was a great night for Australian rugby. A really good night. It’s a great story,” he said.

We’re just disappointed. People have got to understand we’re shattered. We’re not blaming anyone, we’re really proud of our group, really grateful for the supporters that spent their hard-earned cash to come up here and make it a really special event. And as I said, I take my hat off to the Reds’ supporters, they have a good young side here, they’ve got behind them and created a memory which will be spoken about for a long time to come.”

It was a fair summary. The maul penalty in the 78th minute which led to Darcy Swain’s dismissal was especially murky:

In defensive terms, Swain has done everything his coaches would have wanted. He starts in the middle of the maul and swims his way onto the ball-carrier (replacement hooker Alex Mafi), and that is quite legal.

With Mafi locked up, it is unclear whether it is Swain who takes the maul to ground, or rather the sudden surge of momentum generated by the entry of three Queensland backs at the end of the drive.

Penalty? Maybe. Yellow card with no prior warnings? Harsh.

What drives coaches wild is refereeing inconsistency. Although Nic Berry rewarded the Reds’ advantage at the scrum with a 6-1 penalty count in their favour, he did not show assurance in policing Taniela Tupou’s use of the angle into Brumbies hooker Lachlan Lonergan.

Sometimes he rewarded it.

On one occasion, he decided to penalise it:

Readers are invited to spot which penalty is which, from two of the screenshots:

reds scrum angle vs brumbies

reds scrum angle vs brumbies

Knockout matches are invariably played out closer to the set-piece than regular-season games, and the Reds’ control of the scrum just about outweighed the collapse of their lineout.

With the finish of the two domestic Super Rugby competitions tripping over the heels of the start of the Trans-Tasman tournament this weekend, there is precious little time for the Reds to repair some yawning deficiencies at lineout time. Queensland pay a Friday evening visit to Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin to play the Highlanders, so it is a short turnaround indeed.

Of their 19 lineout throws, the Reds won ten cleanly and lost six, and a further three were spoiled. The lineout is one of Jim McKay’s most potent platforms for attacking play, but his backline never looked remotely ready to launch off those numbers.

As I suggested after the game against the Force, the Queensland lineout is an easy read when it is placed under the microscope by astute set-piece minds. This is entirely understandable, given that it is Angus Scott-Young’s debut season calling the shots.

The Brumbies started by taking away the straightforward ‘walk-in’ option, with the throw called to a predetermined spot before set-up:

There is no overcall at the line, so it becomes a straight jumping contest between Ryan Smith and Darcy Swain, which Swain wins:

reds lineout vs brumbies

In order to avoid that kind of outcome, a lineout caller has to use some movement up and down the line to draw the defence away from the intended target area. That, in turn, makes life more difficult for the hooker, who has to time his delivery to the right zone more precisely.

The Brumbies focused on taking away the Queensland’s two primary regular-season targets – Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (36 wins) and Scott-Young himself (17):

Scott-Young in particular does not have great hangtime in the air, so the window of opportunity for the thrower is narrow indeed.

Under pressure, the Queensland receivers tend to jump right across the centre of the line, and that also creates problems for the lifters and the ‘+1’ in the halfback spot:

In the first example, Salakaia-Loto sails right across a plumb-line down the middle to collect the ball, losing the support of his boosters in the process:

reds lineout vs brumbies

This creates a disconnect with Fraser McReight at halfback, and the result is a knock-on as Lukhan tries to hand off to his flanker.

In the second instance, the lift on Scott-Young is off-centre and unstable, again creating a gap between the receiver and his halfback. Swain is able to get a paw on the ball and swipe it away:

reds lineout vs brumbies

The Reds tried to introduce a new factor by throwing to Ryan Smith, who had hardly been used as a target in the regular season – he only made one receipt – but that gave rise to a whole new set of issues:

With a new receiver involved, there is more uncertainty about the speed and angle of delivery for the scrumhalf – there is a question mark over where to stand. Queensland number nine Tate McDermott takes the ball behind him and the whole attacking backline has to drop five metres to adjust. That gives the first midfield ball-carrier no chance of reaching the advantage line.

It hamstrings the attempts to rehearse the kind of two-phase Jim McKay package the Reds executed so accurately earlier in the regular season. Against the Waratahs in Round 1, for example, Queensland uncorked a superb short-side attack.

On the second, scoring phase against the Tahs, right wing Jordan Petaia received the ball level with the first ruck at full tilt, so the defence is under immediate pressure:

When the Reds essayed exactly the same move in the final, the delivery from Smith threw all of the timings off:

With the ball off the top looping over McDermott’s right shoulder, the backline again has to drop a couple of steps and the ball-carrier has no chance of reaching the gain-line. This time, Petaia receives the ball standing still, ten metres behind the first ruck, and the chance of penetration has gone:

reds attacking play from lineout

Summary
After all that has happened in the past 16 months, it was a great night for Australian rugby, and for Queensland rugby in particular. 42,000 supporters crammed into Suncorp Stadium to watch an unbearably tense finale, and that was a triumph in itself.

It was a tribute to the efforts the Reds have made to reconnect with their history and grassroots. They have been the best team over the whole course of Super Rugby AU, and they thoroughly deserved their victory.

On the field, the Brumbies again looked the more likely winners until the final moments of the contest. They found themselves on the butt end of the penalty count (20-8 in favour of the Reds) and the yellow cards (3-0), and it is hard to overcome those disadvantages. Two of those cards were open to question.

The litmus test of where Australian rugby stands in relation to the rest of the world will come over the next couple of months, with the Trans-Tasman tournament and an international tour by France climbing over the horizon.

Taniela Tupou of the Reds and teammates celebrate victory

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The straight story is that for Australia’s champion provincial team, the scrum will be good but the lineout will come under pressure. Without lineout ball, the Queensland backs cannot play.

A major rethink in the back five forwards will be necessary to succeed against the Kiwis, one that will raise questions about the value of both club captain Liam Wright, and their most promising young forward, Seru Uru, to the team.

In this condensed season, teams are moving past championships quicker than ever before. In only two more days, the Reds will face the Highlanders in Dunedin, and it will be the supporters of the ‘Clan’ baying under a glass roof. Queensland needs to hear a strong echo of its Super Rugby AU success in order for the delirium of those final seconds at Suncorp to be fully believed.

Source : The Roar More   

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