Comeback win sets "marker" for Reds' season: Thorn

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Reds coach Brad Thorn has praised the character of his side's Tokyo fightback, an effort he says can set a "marker" for the rest of their season.

The desperate Reds sealed the first win of their Super Rugby season after a Hamish Stewart penalty conversion in the 79th minute handed them what for most of the match had seemed an unlikely victory.

Down 16 points at the break after a poor opening half, the Reds seemed destined to relive their Japanese nightmare.

But they dug in, their revival led by a spirited defensive effort and simplified game plan that played to the Reds' dominance at the set piece.

Finally able to maintain a share of possession, the Reds fought back in an effort that left Thorn hoping his side had turned a corner.  Reds players celebrate their 34-31 victory in the Super Rugby match between Sunwolves and Reds at Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground on March 16, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

"At halftime the coaches were pretty keen to get the team in there to have a reset and talk about different parts of the game," Thorn said.

"I wouldn't say there was anything really special that was said in there, just if we did the basic things, attacked, looked after the ball and used it as we'd trained, we felt like we had some dominance in our set piece and if we used that.

"But the big one, I think, was our defence, we weren't happy with that.

"They needed to bring that attidue to it and I felt that changed.

"Defence is important because it says who you are as a team, it talks about your character as a team and that stepped up and our attack stepped up and our set piece got its opportunities.

"They believed right to the end, even when the Sunwolves got a penalty right in front.

"I just love the belief they had in each other and I hope this sets a marker going forward." Isaac Lucas of Reds is tackled during the Super Rugby match between Sunwolves and Reds at Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground on March 16, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

After scoring three tries in seven minutes, the Reds briefly took the lead but the Sunwolves replied in an effort that once would have ended the Queenslanders' hopes.

But in a show his young side is finding belief, it was the effort of reserve forward Harry Hockings to charge down a kick and Tate McDermott to be in position to clean up the scraps that allowed the Reds to hit back and level the scores before Stewart slotted the  winning penalty.

"Young Hamish Stewart, the fullback, I thought he was really strong today with his carries, his kicking and he kicked that final goal," Thorn said.

"He's worked away over the pre-season and the NRC and that's what it's all about as a goal-kicker is to kick that winning goal."

Kerevi admitted his side was on the back foot from the start given the Sunwolves' energy but said there was a belief in the team at halftime they could mount a comeback.

"I thought the Sunwolves energy from the start of the match was really good and it put us on the back foot and they pressured us," Kerevi said.  Dan Pryor of Sunwolves dives to score his side's third try during the Super Rugby match between Sunwolves and Reds at Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground on March 16, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images for Sunwolves)

"At halftime we spoke as a team and really believed in each other that we could do the job and you saw that in the second half.

"Obviously it was a game of two halves and I'm really pleased for the boys and over the moon to get a win like that.

"It shows when we're down by 16 points and to come back really showed the boys' faith in each other and in the coaching staff."