Reds setting their own trap

Elisha Pearce Columnist

By Elisha Pearce, Elisha Pearce is a Roar Expert

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    Queensland Reds player Quade Cooper (centre) is help by ACT Brumbies' Henry Speight (right) and Nic White during their round 10 Super Rugby match at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Saturday, April 20, 2013. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

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    On Saturday night the Reds fell into a trap that caused them to draw with the Force.

    The Force defended admirably, and had periods of efficient and enjoyable play, but were not able to make the running for the vast majority of the 80 minutes.

    It was the same tactical and positional errors by the Reds that consigned the better team to a draw against the Brumbies a fortnight ago as well.

    In that game the Reds spurned chanced to kick for goal for trying to score tries. They attempted to score by either mauling the ball from lineouts or using pick and drive tactics right next to the ruck from close.

    In that match they had 12 minutes of possession inside the Brumbies 22 metre line. Against the Force that was ‘only’ seven or so minutes. I say ‘only’ because the Force didn’t have anywhere near that much and still managed to score as many points.

    It’s hard to work out exactly what the Reds have been trying to achieve; mostly because they took almost every shot at goal last week when they held on to beat the Blues in a very close game.

    If rugby were politics this would be decried as hypocrisy. In business it would appear to be uncertain leadership. In rugby it’s the difference between a three-point lead at the top of the ladder and the first wildcard place.

    Coming off the back of the Brumbies game that was particularly brutal and hard fought, the Reds were always going to struggle to handle the Blues and only just pulled off a victory there. Many people commented on how tired they looked – in particular Liam Gill.

    Beau Robinson was drafted onto the bench, finally back from injury, this week and it would have been hoped that he would add energy to the pack late in the piece.

    But overall they weren’t able to fire against the Force. This makes the stubborn decision to stick with the forward-oriented play even more erroneous.

    Ignoring kicks for goal was one thing – you’re allowed to set your sights on a try, they are worth more too – but why the insistence on using a tired pack to carry out a tired moves that didn’t work previously and everyone could see coming a mile away?

    Making matters worse was the fact Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane had been performing brilliantly all night. The very reason they spent so much time inside the attacking 22 was because Cooper kept finding room and Ioane kept charging down his line like a man possessed.

    It wasn’t such a different story against the Brumbies either if you watch the tape. There were some Brumbies mistakes, but it wasn’t a war of attrition through kicking and rucking that saw the Reds camp inside the attacking area so often.

    Cooper had a very good game; Ioane, Anthony Fainga’a and Rod Davies were also very willing. They were able to move the ball down the field using a mixture of drive and width.

    Why, exactly, do they believe completely changing their approach, after it successfully put them in position to score, is the best way to score?

    Giving the ball to Cooper inside the 22 metre area against the Force looked good the few times they used that option. He almost put players through holes and was making defenders question assignments.

    Crucially, Cooper was going to the line and playing at top speed, something that took a while to come back after his injury.

    McKenzie has been treated as a sage of Australian rugby for a few years now, but I think he’s missed a trick. This team doesn’t need to do much too differently to the one that won the championship a few years ago.

    It’s true: the depth in the Reds squad might not be quite as good as that time round, but it’s not far off. They have the pieces to do something special.

    The thing is, the Reds could actually win this again. There isn’t the same ‘Team of Destiny’ feel about them, and more would have to break the right way, but they are a competition contender.

    The Reds could beat the Brumbies in a one-off finals match. They certainly have the game plan to get a win against the Crusaders, Bulls and Sharks based on previous performance. Even the Chiefs find it hard to contain their patented inside-outside game when it is used well.

    I have to assume McKenzie realises this. Could he have lost a bit of perspective after winning in 2011? Is there internal friction between the departing ‘director of coaching’ and the actual Head Coach Richard Graham?

    McKenzie, what have you been trying to prove? Don’t lay a trap for yourself and then walk into it.

    Elisha Pearce
    Elisha Pearce

    Long-time Roarer Elisha Pearce joined us as a rugby union expert in 2015. He also works for Fairfax Media and has confused more Roarers with his name than anyone in the history of the site.

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • May 6th 2013 @ 8:24am
      Bill said | May 6th 2013 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      I think it shows the reds are arrogant by not kicking for goal. In reality though this is a game both teams think they should have won, remember the force missed two easy kicks at goal

      • May 6th 2013 @ 9:18am
        mania said | May 6th 2013 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        your always most vulnerable when u think u arent. reds need to learn a bit of humility i reckon.

    • May 6th 2013 @ 8:32am
      formeropenside said | May 6th 2013 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      I guess until referees start going to the pocket for repeated infringements in the 22 – and how did Ebersohn not get a card for the most blatant deliberate offside ever when he tried to kick the ball out – then the smart play is just going to be the boring Brumby/Force game of get to the 22, get a penalty, kick it.

      It was fitting – if a terrible end to a horrible round – that the Ponies got a bonus point out of a penalty.

      • Columnist

        May 6th 2013 @ 1:03pm
        Elisha Pearce said | May 6th 2013 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

        I dont think its that extreme fos. Dont get me wrong, I think the Reds should have won both of those games.

        What did you think of kicking goals to beat the Blues.

        This line of inquiry can very easily become similar to the Barcelona “beautiful game” battle lines where everyone else is unworthy if they dont try to beat them using the same game plan.

        • May 6th 2013 @ 1:59pm
          formeropenside said | May 6th 2013 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

          What did I think of 12-11 over the Blues – a necessary evil. They really swarmed the breakdown well, and mostly legally, so I could see the point of kicking goals, especially after the events of the previous week.

          Who are Barcelona? I did not think the Spanish were terribly good at rugby, despite making a RWC.

          • Columnist

            May 6th 2013 @ 2:08pm
            Elisha Pearce said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

            Couldn’t swinging the ball wide a bit more instead of going pick and drive again been a necessary evil as well?
            I know slick backline moves inside the 22 arent pure rugby but the Reds could have used a couple, reluctantly of course, and probably secured two more wins than they currently have this year.

    • May 6th 2013 @ 8:41am
      Fin said | May 6th 2013 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      I think you are pretty close to the mark here EP. They pick a light weight, mobile pack to use speed and width to get them 90m up field and then go for the pick and drive ( which they are clearly out muscled in ) to try to get over the line. It doesn’t make sense.

      For mine the most frustrating thing is that they cry negativity from the opposition when they are the team trying to get the ref to hand them the match when they are clearly the better side and should just keep playing to their strengths, and take the ref out of the game.

      The other thing they could do is get off the refs case. The Brumbies game in particular was way over the top, in the media during the week and then during the game there was several reds players giving the ref one on one instruction on how to do his job. Granted someof this instruction was probably on the money but I think it was detrtimental to their cause.

      In 2011 the Reds just played rugby and it worked and it was entertaining to watch.

      • May 6th 2013 @ 9:54am
        Red Kev said | May 6th 2013 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        I agree – great article – the Reds are really frustrating to watch as a fan this year.

      • May 6th 2013 @ 12:08pm
        Cantab said | May 6th 2013 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

        Yeah good comment Fin.

      • Columnist

        May 6th 2013 @ 12:55pm
        Elisha Pearce said | May 6th 2013 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

        Great post.
        Whats more negative?
        A) Kicking your goals
        B) Playing a belligerent style that has requires a compliant ref to be successful.

        • May 6th 2013 @ 2:00pm
          formeropenside said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

          For “compliant” perhaps substitute “one who has read the rulebook”.

    • May 6th 2013 @ 10:03am
      Ai Rui Sheng said | May 6th 2013 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      The quality of refereeing in Oz has almost fallen to the “standard” of the Irish, whom I believe have offered Wayne Barnes the task of improving their ability to spot a forward pass. The efforts of the Leads, Bumblies and the Farce have been greatly enhanced against foreign teams.

      The TMO efforts this weekend were poorer than those of the South African “NEUTRAL” who made several dodgy calls in the HSBC Sevens Final in Glasgow, to aid and abet the Springboks win. It was a very sporting act of the Kiwis to accept a Bokke referee, but that’s when the sportsmanship achieved the status of a singularity.

    • May 6th 2013 @ 10:08am
      Justin2 said | May 6th 2013 @ 10:08am | ! Report

      • Roar Guru

        May 6th 2013 @ 10:38am
        Jiggles said | May 6th 2013 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        The maul and pick and drives are very predictable. I’m glad to hear its not a deliberate tactic.

    • May 6th 2013 @ 11:02am
      Chris said | May 6th 2013 @ 11:02am | ! Report

      The Reds being an “attacking team” is a complete myth.

      Of the Australian teams they have scored 9 less tries than the Brumbies, 10 less than the Tahs and 3 less than the Rebels.

      They are only better than the hapless Force at crossing the tryline.

      • May 6th 2013 @ 11:32am
        Lunchy said | May 6th 2013 @ 11:32am | ! Report

        Total agreement from me Chris. Is the Reds current style of play influenced by the incoming coach Richard Graham? If it is 2014 is going to be a tough season for Reds fans. Currently the backs play well to get field position and then are given the bench while the pack constantly pick and drive hoping for a penalty. Not the style of play they used in 2011.

        • Roar Guru

          May 6th 2013 @ 12:24pm
          Hoy said | May 6th 2013 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          I don’t see them as playing for a penalty. I think they are genuinely going for a try, but they are countered to varying degrees. The Brumbies countered them rather cynically, and gave away multiple penalties. I didn’t catch the Force game, so I can’t comment too much, but I have read they were obviously countered.

          Oddly, I was pretty impressed this year with the Reds mauling. It is good work. But I agree, it shouldn’t be the absolute tactic to use. It should be a possibility…

          But I wrote yesterday, I think the Reds backs lack punch. Except for Digby, who of them can bust the line? Quade can create half chances, he needs his backs to bust through them…

          • Columnist

            May 6th 2013 @ 12:59pm
            Elisha Pearce said | May 6th 2013 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

            I dont think they were playing for a penalty either.
            Its the strategy they use to try and score a try that is most worrying.

        • May 6th 2013 @ 12:32pm
          Shrek said | May 6th 2013 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

          I think that’s a contributing factor (the Force were certainly dour last year), but what I’m surprised isn’t brought up in commentary more often is the forwards oriented game plan McKenzie implemented as Waratahs coach through the middle of the last decade – we were crying for attacking footy and the Tah’s teams of the day would boot the leather off the ball only to allow the Crusaders superior forward pack rumble over the top of us.

          I think Link has been fantastic for the Reds, but he is the ultimate pragmatist and I suspect that he is still firmly supportive of a forwards oriented game if he doesn’t think his backs can create enough space. Whey they wouldn’t have backed themselves against the force though, I don’t know? Is this Horwill’s on field leadership?

        • Roar Guru

          May 6th 2013 @ 2:45pm
          Red Kev said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

          Graham is the defensive coach for the Reds so I doubt he’s affecting the attacking patterns much.
          It should also be noted that G&GR did a piece on the Wallaby attack potency and the Wallabies improved dramatically when Graham was in charge of the attack and have been consistently worse since Deans took on the role.
          If I had to guess McKenzie is in charge of attack this year at the Reds (I honestly don’t know so if someone does please post the information) – maybe head coaches (sorry, Directors of Coaching) have too much on their plate to devote enough time to attacking patterns.

          • Roar Guru

            May 6th 2013 @ 4:51pm
            Hoy said | May 6th 2013 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

            Well that is against every impression I have from the Wallabies under Graham. I thought our backs did absolutely nothing under his guidance at that level, and honestly, I have grave fears for the future of the Reds under his head coaching.

            Happy to be proved wrong… in time I guess.

      • May 6th 2013 @ 1:27pm
        Rob said | May 6th 2013 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

        When the reds won the comp, the player with the most kicks in the season was quade cooper. Morne steyne was 2. And genia was 3rd.
        They had 2 players in the top 3 most kicks in the whole super comp….. Yet apparently the waratahs are the ones incessantly kicking. Even now the same predictable rubbish is being spruiked (mostly by tahs own fans)

        • May 6th 2013 @ 10:04pm
          GWS said | May 6th 2013 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

          Statistics and lies.
          2011 reds were playing footy the tahs could not imagine

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