Updated: Thorn praises smarter Reds; McKellar insists Brumbies need to improve under pressure

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Reds coach Brad Thorn said he could feel something building ahead of his side's 36-14 bonus point win against the Brumbies but is refusing to get carried away with the victory.

While he labelled it as possibly the most complete performance during his tenure, Thorn stuck doggedly to his mantra that constant improvement is the biggest goal for a Reds side he said is not even close to realising its potential.

While the Reds benefited from hellish temperatures - it was 33C at kick-off at Suncorp Stadium - they forced a crisis of confidence in a Brumbies side unable to deal with the pressure heaped on by a relentless home side.

"I know that we've been putting a lot of work in each week, so you feel like something's building," Thorn said.

"That's our fifth game and if you look at all the games, we've been in it, it's not like we've been blown away by anyone.

"The Highlanders, Crusaders - you think about when their tries were scored in the game - the Waratahs, we probably couldn't have played worse and it was still 11 points.

"We're constantly trying to get better each week, just constantly, positively trying to get better in every area of rugby.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto goes high to take a lineout ball in the Reds' win against the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium. Photo: Getty Images

"You're just starting to see signs of improvement in various things - improvement in kicking, improvement in our maul, our lineout (defence).

"There's so many more things to work on but you're just seeing some positive signs of stuff just ticking away.

"Something that I'm hopeful for is by round 16, you see a better team, a team that's grown throughout the season."

Those signs were there for the Reds after a much improved start led to arguably their most consistent performance of the season and one in which Brumbies coach Dan McKellar conceded his team was "dominated" in the forwards.

"We were dominated," McKellar said.

"The first opportunity we got 5m out, we turned over the lineout and then turned over another three during the game.

"When things don't go well we've got to be better.

"Pressure, stress, it comes in professional sport and Super Rugby and at the moment we don't handle those moments well.

"It's an area we've got to improve.

"Certainly, our lineout maul didn't function today at all."

It's a win for Thorn, whose end-of-year review in 2018 showed a lack of consistency, smarts and conditioning, things his coaching staff and players have worked on relentlessly in the off-season.

It showed against the Brumbies, with the Reds showing a maturity that has been lacking in many of their recent performances.

Reds coach Brad Thorn was pleased with his side's effort against the Brumbies but says they remain a work in progress. Photo: Getty Images

"We're tried to build routine with this group," Thorn said.

"They're younger - I have to be careful when I say that because we're not using excuses around that - but just learning routine and the big thing for me was smarts and intelligence.

"We're seeing more intelligence around our kicking game, I'm seeing some intelligence with the defensive maul, with our maul.

"There are lot of things the coaching staff see, just little improvements.

"Are we anywhere near the full thing yet? Nowhere near it, but just good little things you're seeing across the board.

"But it's cool because you put so much work into it and the guys are putting a lot of work in and you want them to enjoy it and see that improvement and to be enthused and want to strive to get better and better."

McKellar and Brumbies captain Christian Lealiifano were left to lament their lack of intelligence at times though.

"I thought the Reds were really physical today and got us in patches there and put us under a fair bit of pressure and forced some errors," Lealiifano said.

"We've got to learn from those moments, be able to adapt quicker and better, so we can cope.

"It's a derby and it's going to be a physical contest and we probably didn't match up as well as we would have liked."

The Brumbies were disappointed with their reactions under pressure against the Reds. Photo: Getty Images

The Reds' season is back on track after its crucial 36-14 bonus point win against the Brumbies.

In an extraordinary effort in hellish 33C conditions at Suncorp Stadium, the Reds scored five tries - four of them in the second half - to notch a win that can set up their season.

The Reds had hoped for a hot day but the 33C that greeted the players at kick-off and associated humidity created stifling conditions for both sides.

The Reds handled it best though, withstanding an early push from the Brumbies with outstanding defence that showed their marked improvement in that area.

It proved key to the match, with the Reds kicking on for a 10-0 halftime lead, and while the Brumbies briefly hit back after capitalising on an Izack Rodda handling error, Queensland showed patience and a relentless intensity in defence to score four second-half tries for a bonus point win that puts them just a point behind the Brumbies on the Super Rugby ladder.

The much-vaunted Brumbies maul proved ineffective, with both the visitors' tries coming from Reds errors, while the Brumbies' own mistakes contributed to four of the Reds' tries.

The Reds have put endless effort into their defence in the off-season and it showed early in the match when they withstood 27 successive phases to repel the Brumbies close to their line.

Bryce Hegarty races towards the tryline as the Reds seal a bonus point win over the Brumbies. Photo: Getty Images

Queensland spent the first 10 minutes of the match defending desperately but caught a break when Izack Rodda stole a lineout ball to allow them to fight out of their own half.

They then pushed deep into attack when Bryce Hegarty made 35m on a penalty kick, with the Reds scoring just minutes later after Scott Higginbotham ploughed over for his 39th Super Rugby try.

Hegarty's conversion and then a penalty in the 29th minute pushed the Reds' lead to 10-0 and that's where it stayed at halftime after Taniela Tupou dropped the ball 10m out with a try going begging.

In extraordinary start to the second half, the Brumbies scored inside the first minute, with Henry Speight crossing after Izack Rodda lost the ball for the Reds.

Christian Lealiifano's conversion put his team within three points of the Reds, whose first-half dominance suddenly seemed to matter for little.

But converted tries to Chris Feauai-Sautia and Tate McDermott within a two-minute period pushed Queensland's lead out to 24-7.

The first came with Reds captain Samu Kerevi willing to chance his arm on a quick throw-in from a Lealiifano touch-finder deep in Reds territory.

Tom Banks take the ball forward before being caught by the Reds' defence. Photo: Getty Images

Sefa Naivalu made ground before returning the ball to Kerevi on the sideline, with the captain drawing the Brumbies defence and passing to Chris Feauai-Sautia, who raced over to score.

Just two minutes later, the Reds' relentless defence forced an error from Pete Samu, with Feauai-Sautia finding a flying Tate McDermott, who outpaced Brumbies winger Lausii Taliauli in the race to the line.

The Brumbies hit back with a late try to debutant Jahrome Brown, who scored just seconds after getting on the ground after replacement Reds scrumhalf Moses Sorovi threw a wild pass that was knocked down by Kerevi, with Brown gleefully snapping up the crumbs and diving over.

Lealiifano's conversion put the Brumbies within 10 points but it was as close as they got after Bryce Hegarty and Brandon Peanga-Amosas scored inside the final 10 mintues to seal the derby win.

The Brumbies lost Rory Arnold to an arm injury in the first half to add to their injury woes.

RESULT

Reds 36

Tries: Scott Higginbotham, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Tate McDermott, Bryce Hegarty, Brandon Paenga-Amosa

Cons: Bryce Hegarty 4

Pens: Hegarty

Brumbies 14

Tries: Henry Speight, Jahrome Brown

Cons: Christian Lealiifano 2