Saturday 9 July 2011
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Reds 18-13 Crusaders
An attacking pair at the base of the scrum who never let their foot off the throat of a rival side. Will Genia’s mature option-taking around the ruck required constant vigilence, but a pair of crossed fingers and rosary beads was often the only way of stopping Quade Cooper’s audacious run-pass attack at ten. Importantly, both improved their tactical kicking games markedly in 2011 to round out the skill-sets.
The Reds had long been an attacking side capable of scoring four tries a game – but they would leak five or more. An emphasis on defence was Ewen McKenzie’s first priority when he took over in 2010. After conceding nearly 28 points a game in 2008, this year they were down to only 18. They held rivals to only one try in each of their last five matches, including the Crusaders.
After parting company with Stade Français in 2009, Ewen McKenzie (above) quickly landed on his feet at the Reds during tumultous upheaval. The former Wallaby prop known as ‘Link’ rebuilt the franchise by injecting his brand of defensive starch, tactical smarts and the pragmatism to win with whatever style is called for – even ugly.
You can’t coach speed and you can’t fake flair – and the Reds had plenty of both. Defending at full-back to receive kicks, Cooper’s daring counter-attack gave jet-shoed wings like Rod Davies and Digby Ioane plenty of open space. For an “are you serious?” example check out the ‘Cooper in-goal kick’ below…
With Queensland having not made the play-offs for a decade, for many young Reds the Super Rugby final was only their second-ever knockout game. Beating top sides during the season imbued the team with an unshakeable attitude; the title was theirs if they wanted it. They had none of the fear of failure that can cripple others.
This article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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