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Queensland rugby fans will undoubtedly have woken up on Sunday morning to the same state of irritation that I did, at our team being flogged 37-16 by the old enemy from NSW.
The Tahs were the better team on the night. In a game that was fairly reffed by Angus Gardner, Daryl Gibson opted for speed over power in his forward pack and it paid off, with NSW’s classy backline ultimately putting the sword to the Reds.
For Queensland, being nine weeks into the season with three wins and four losses, it is time for a bit of reflection.
Brad Thorn has done a lot to build culture around commitment, especially in defence, but there are other key elements to the way the team is operating which have not yet clicked.
If they keep racking up the big losses, disillusionment may set in and the good work will suffer. We saw a bit of that with a 72 per cent tackle success ratio on Saturday – poor when we consider the emphasis on defence.
Here are some suggestions about how they might get back on track.
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The tight five are functioning and the scrum is doing well, however the backrow underperformed at the breakdown on Saturday and the entire pack muffed four own lineouts, which is unacceptable.
The combination of Lukhan Tui at six and Caleb Timu at eight didn’t work. The six needs to revert to a lighter player who would be quicker to the breakdown and better in the lineout – probably Adam Korczyk.
The halves didn’t play well, with service from James Tuttle ponderous. The failure of the forwards in getting quick ball has to be part of the reason, but it isn’t an excuse, with some poor decisions by Tuttle. The meaningless box kick which initiated the sequence leading the first Tahs try is the prime example.
Slow service undermined Jono Lance’s running, which usually results in a couple of line breaks a game, but he did some silly things too. The worst of it was taking a clean ball from an attacking lineout and kicking it straight to Kurtley Beale. Both of the halves can do a lot better and should be given the opportunity to redeem themselves with a decent performance against the Chiefs next week, but they should also be feeling selection pressure.
Samu Kerevi is becoming a liability, even when he plays at 12, where he can defend better. He missed a critical covering tackle on Michael Wells when he had the pace and time to get around what was a pretty puny fend. Moreover, he missed three from four tackles.
In attack, Kerevi is running the ball too much – 14 times while passing only seven – resulting in his outside backs not getting enough ball in space.
Thorn might need to consider that while he dropped Quade Cooper to avoid the backline being run around one player, he has inadvertently allowed exactly that to happen with Kerevi.
The Reds need a second playmaker at 12 and Duncan Paia’aua, who did an excellent job last year and in the NRC, should replace Kerevi. Kerevi can’t be shifted to 13 either until his defence improves, so he might take a bench spot for now. It would be tough love for such a promising young player, but tough love is what Thorn is all about, isn’t it?
My final thought as I watched the Reds uncharacteristically wilt in the last ten minutes, was that these players might be overtrained in fitness at the expense of skills and tactics.
The words of Jake the Muss in Once Were Warriors comes to mind: “Too many weights, not enough speed work…”
Perhaps a recalibration of the training regime is in order?