Thorn endorses Jaguares' place in Super Rugby despite Reds' loss

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Brad Thorn has hit back at recent arguments the Jaguares do not deserve a place in Super Rugby, saying he wants his players to embrace the challenge of Test-level football and have a burning desire to beat the best.

The Reds lost 34-23 to the Argentinian side despite being in the battle for most of the match.

While they had their chances to win the game in the dying stages, the reality is the Reds do not yet have the consistency or variety in their game - collectively and on the whole as individuals - to be able to match it with the likes of the Jaguares.

The Argentinians have copped flak in some quarters for being a virtual national team in disguise, with many questioning their place in a provincial competition.

But Thorn was adamant they deserved a place and would raise the standard of his players. 

"There's a lot of Test players, but good, bring it on, let's have a Test match," he said.

"It's a good competition, they can bring some Test players off the bench and we embrace that.

"Yeah, it had an impact on the game but I like my guys mixing with that. Taste it, embrace it, learn from it and get better from it.

Chris Feauai-Sautia races away for the Reds' opening try against the Jaguares. Photo: Getty Images

"We want to play them. We weren't quite ready for them today but where we're going, I don't want any of those good teams going away."

The Reds tried using a reverse psychology approach on their squad early this season, practically banning any mention of youth and adopting a "no excuses" policy.

But Thorn has talked freely in recent weeks about the inexperience of sections of his squad, something that is not going to change next year given the post-World Cup exodus that will occur.

And he wants them exposed to the best in the game.

"Harry Hockings and Angus Blyth and young Gav Luka and Jock (Campbell), it's good (for them to be involved in games like that) - taste that level, embrace it," Thorn said.

"I want to play those type of teams. You don't want those good sides like the Crusaders going anywhere. Stay there, remain excellent teams and for us, let's get a feel for that, that's where that level is and let's work our butts off and get smarter and better and next time, let's rumble. I like that level being in there."

Tate McDermott makes a darting run against the Jaguares in the Reds' 34-23 loss. Photo: Getty Images

The Jaguares maintained their perfect record on Australian soil, beating Queensland 34-23 to ruin Scott Higginbotham's celebrations in a groundhog day effort from the Reds.

As has been the case all season, the Reds competed until the death and were in the contest but they could not find a way to get the result.

An inability to control the ball at the breakdown, especially in the first half, hurt the Reds, as it has for much of the season.

Again the Reds were able to create little width to capitalise on the dominant running of captain Samu Kerevi, or the damaging Filipo Daugunu, who was among the home side's best in his return from a six-week sabbatical for a broken arm.

While Kerevi was blaming himself after throwing an intercept that allowed winger Santiago Carreras to streak away for the matchwinner in the 78th minute, when Queensland trailed by just six points, the damage had already been done. 

Boasting a near Test-strength pack, the Jaguares dominated at the breakdown and won 11 turnovers as the Reds failed to protect the ball.

It maintained the Argentinian side's perfect record on Australian soil and handed them a third consecutive win on this road trip, all but sealing them a home Super Rugby final.

Scott Higginbotham on the charge in his 100th game for the Reds. Photo: Getty Images

In a match they were desperate to win for former captain Scott Higginbotham in his 100th appearance for the club, the Reds again showed some positive signs.

The game was there for the taking in the dying minutes, with Kerevi attempting to work the ball to flyhalf Matt McGahan on the shortside when it was intercepted by Carreras in an all-or-nothing play from the winger.

The Reds missed Kerevi badly last week when they were able to generate little wide of the ruck.

And he quickly showed what a difference he makes, generating Queensland's first try when he charged through the Jaguares defensive line and offloaded for Chris Feauai-Sautia to score.

But the inconsistency that has dogged the Reds' season was on display just minutes later when they conceded a penalty, with Joaquin Diaz Bonilla knocking it over to reduce the margin to four.

The Reds restored their seven-point margin when Bryce Hegarty converted a penalty midway through the term but were soon on the backfoot, with the visitors adding two tries before the break.

Showing soccer skills unsurprising for someone having grown up in a football-mad country, Carreras chipped off the ground and neatly regathered to score his first Super Rugby try.

The Reds maintained the lead after the Jaguares missed the conversion but when scrumhalf Felipe Ezcurra darted over minutes from the break, the visitors had the lead.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto attempts to get away from the Jaguares defence during their clash at Suncorp Stadium. Photo: Getty Images

The Reds reduced the buffer to two points at the break after Hegarty slotted another conversion attempt and regained the lead early in the second term when he kicked another.

The visitors' mass injection of fresh forwards early in the second term paid almost immediate dividends, with Julian Montoya scoring as the Jaguares dominated possession for several phases - the home side's defence in disarray.

And things got worse for the Reds when Tate McDermott limped from the field, reappearing on the bench with his right foot in ice.

McDermott's injury handed Scott Malolua his debut, a momentous occasion for the young man from Souths but a missed opportunity to play regular back-up Moses Sorovi - the club's only indigenous player - in indigenous round.

Twice the Reds had opportunities when down six points late in the match but the Jaguares pounced on their errors to score on both occasions.

Marcos Kremer ran over Kerevi - who made a valiant front-on effort close to the line - to push the margin out to 13 points and when Jock Campbell scored in the 76th minute to give the home side hope in the dying stages, Carreras's intercept broke Reds hearts.

RESULT

Jaguares 34

Tries: Santiago Carreras 2, Felipe Ezcurra, Julian Montoya, Marcos Kremer

Cons:  Joaquin Diaz Bonilla 3

Pens: Diaz Bonilla

Reds 23

Tries: Chris Feauai-Sautia, Jock Campbell

Cons: Bryce Hegarty 2

Pens: Hegarty 3