Samu Kerevi is in blistering form. Picture: AFP
Samu Kerevi is in blistering form. Picture: AFP

Unpredictable Reds could surge or sink

JIM TUCKER MARKS THE QUEENSLAND REDS' MID-TERM REPORT CARD

 

Brad Thorn is demanding a line in the sand on consistency from the Reds which is quite appropriate considering the quicksand that has swallowed too many recent seasons.

The Queenslanders are perched in a 4-5 win-loss position with everything to play for when they return from their bye break for a full-on tilt at the final seven games.

Look at the best parts of the Reds' performances and you can see the ambitious springboard towards the Reds' first finals appearance since 2013.

 

Take off the red-coloured glasses and there is too little patience, too many hoodoos and too few game-breakers outside of Samu Kerevi to predict more than a finish in 10th or 11th.

It spells an exciting and unpredictable run home in Super Rugby which is a clear step up on so many recent campaigns when the last rites were administered by early May.

"We've got to get to a point where we have a line in the sand and say this is the standard and we're not dropping back," coach Thorn said.

He was spot on after the defensive attitude, forward clout, fast start and clinical finishing moments last weekend to win in Durban for the first time in 15 years.

New flyhalf Bryce Hegarty is finding his feet and taking off for the opening try in Durban set the tone.

Now, to repeat it against the Sunwolves, on Friday week at Suncorp Stadium, the Melbourne Rebels (May 10) and NSW Waratahs (May 18) in a run of key Australian Conference clashes.

 

THE GOOD

 

1. SAMU KEREVI

The Wallabies centre is close to the best player in Super Rugby right now. He is the Reds' top tryscorer (five), has busted more tackles (41) than any other attacker in the competition and is second for running metres (924).

Perhaps, the most revealing stat from the Fox Sports Lab is his 10 try involvements which demonstrates he is creating for others more than he did early in his career.

 

2. GENERATION NEXT

Halfback Tate McDermott has been a revelation. Still just 20, the tempo he adds to the Reds' game with quick taps and ruckbase darts has been the trigger for some of the side's best play.

Punting wisely on cub Isaac Lucas, 20, so early was based on pure form not his birth date.

 

 

Reds coach Brad Thorn has demanded his team not drop back from the standard they have set. Picture: Getty Images
Reds coach Brad Thorn has demanded his team not drop back from the standard they have set. Picture: Getty Images

3. CLEAR SELECTION CALLS

Thorn is a better selector than he was last year. The quick switch from Hamish Stewart to Bryce Hegarty at flyhalf has turned out to be the right call. Hegarty has more spark there but Stewart's steel has been kept at fullback.

There were many pushing for a Duncan Paia'aua-Kerevi centre pairing but Thorn's backing of Chris Feauai-Sautia as Kerevi's partner has been more productive.

 

4. IMPROVED DISCIPLINE

Thorn demanded an end to the dire yellow card fever of 2018 when the Reds were undermined by 10 yellow cards and a red card.

After nine games, the Reds have cut their foul play penalties from 15 to seven compared to the same stage last year.

This reflects well on defensive coach Peter Ryan getting the tackle technique and structure right.

 

 

Bryce Hegarty has been impressive at five-eighth. Picture: Getty Images
Bryce Hegarty has been impressive at five-eighth. Picture: Getty Images

5. MORE FIREPOWER

It must still improve but the Reds are a try-per-game more potent than the spluttering attack of early last year. Flyer Sefa Naivalu has had excellent moments but can find another 20 per cent by roaming more.

 

6. GOALKICKING

Bryce Hegarty is operating at 86 per cent (24-from-28) to prove that master kicking coach Dave Alred was a good investment.

The kicking in general play has improved but is still too often a B-minus.

 

7. MORE GRIT ON THE ROAD

Down 16 points at halftime, the comeback win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo ignited the season. The upset in Durban was further proof that vital wins are possible in Melbourne and Canberra to come.

 

THE COSTLY

 

1. IMPATIENCE

The Reds really didn't fire a shot in their two biggest games when losing to the NSW Waratahs (28-17) and Melbourne Rebels (32-13). Pushing passes, impatience when trying to score off every phase and drops in intensity were punished big time.

 

2. SLOW START CURSE

This handbrake may be over because the 14-0 jump for the last-start win over the Sharks in Durban was the best of the season.

 

3. NAIVE ATTACK

The Reds can ad lib in attack but the masters of set plays they are not because they should really take more advantage of their strong scrummaging.

 

 

McDermott has been among the Reds’ best. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images
McDermott has been among the Reds’ best. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

THE UGLY

 

1. CROWD NUMBERS

Financial struggles are being inflamed by poor crowds with only 10,745 for the Reds-Rebels game at Suncorp Stadium when twice that many should have been watching the return of Will Genia and Quade Cooper.

 

2. HOODOOS

No win in New Zealand since 2013 and no win over the Waratahs from NSW since Kevin Rudd was PM. Yes, a long time.

3. LOST IN REHAB

Teen ace Jordan Petaia had a blinder against the Highlanders but his foot ligament injury in the second game has ruled him out of the Super Rugby season.

 

AND FINALLY...

BEST PLAYERS

Samu Kerevi, Tate McDermott, Izack Rodda.

FORM RISING

Liam Wright, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Scott Higginbotham, Bryce Hegarty, Alex Mafi.

BREAKOUT PLAYERS: Harry Hockings, Isaac Lucas, Feao Fotuaika, Harry Hoopert.

FAR MORE EXPECTED

Taniela Tupou, Duncan Paia'aua, Caleb Timu.

News Corp Australia


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