Thorn delivering on Queensland Reds promise
NEW warhead Caleb Timu has saluted the grit of rookie flyhalf Hamish Stewart in Buenos Aires where he delivered the Reds' first victory overseas since 2015.
Desperate, spirit-infused defence plus a dominant scrum and lineout were the bedrock to the 18-7 upset of the Jaguares.
Take a bow Brad Thorn!
The novice coach promised a team that would scrap as if they cared and show character in every scrambling tackle or commanding front-on hit.
They needed to in every one of the 149 tackles they were forced to make in the second half to repel the Jaguares, who made just 41 when commanding all the ball for zero points.
"There's ticker there...you don't walk away from the ground or a TV screen saying these guys don't have a go," a proud Thorn said.
The reward has been the Reds best start (3-1) to a season since 2013, the same year they last won three games of Super Rugby in succession.
The resolve of the Reds was tested in multiple ways, including the forced change at half-time when Stewart, 20, replaced Jono Lance after a head knock assessment.
They were Stewart's first minutes of the season yet he pulled off the key attacking play and a classic late try-saver.
With just over four minutes to play, Stewart torpedoed low into 82-Test Argentinian flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon to force a boot onto the touchline just before he dotted down.
"Hamish is known for that and I love that he doesn't take a backward step," No.8 Timu said.
"As Thorny said all week, you don't want to travel this far in vain. Very pleasing."
Stewart (16) topped the team's tackle count in just 40 minutes, according to Opta Stats.
From a lineout early in the second half, Stewart sent the impressive Timu (11 runs for 94m) galloping into a hole after using 135kg Taniela Tupou as rugby's biggest decoy.
The slick passing relay from Timu, Samu Kerevi and Chris Feaua-Sautia was a Reds rarity because it was more Crusaders-like.
It gave flying Filipo Daugunu the jump to bump through a tackle to finish a superb 60m try for 18-7.
Standout Izack Rodda was the dominant figure in the lineouts, including a steal 10m out, and imposing centre Samu Kerevi made a try-saving strip on the line on half-time.
Thorn took a moment to reflect on the biggest questions when he took over as a rookie coach and with so many young players.
"'Could you change the culture?' and 'can you build something a level up (from Under-20s and Queensland Country)?' were the big two," Thorn said.
"The players have responded in spades and we are a still a work in progress as everyone can see."
Lance made two try-saving front-on tackles on his line and young flanker Angus Scott-Young worked for the full 80-minutes.