Reds vs Bulls: Five things we learned

Sat, 14/03/2020, 12:30 pm
Emma Greenwood
by Emma Greenwood
Dane Zander is showing he belongs in Super Rugby. Photo: Getty Images

An injury to a young gun, the "Wright" leadership choice and why adapting on the run is crucial.

Here's what we're talking about after the Reds' 41-17 bonus point win over the Bulls at Suncorp Stadium.

1. Reds get leadership choice Wright

There were a few eyebrows raised when 22-year-old flanker Liam Wright was announced as the Reds' captain earlier this year ahead of fellow Wallabies forward Izack Rodda.

Rodda remains an integral part of Queensland's leadership team but Wright has shown himself to be the man for the occasion with a cool head and big heart.

A mammoth pair of defensive plays late in the first half when the Reds trailed 17-7 turned the game in favour of the home side and he helped engineer a turnaround after Queensland looked all at sea in the opening stages.

The humble forward has a hint of John Eales about him and can be as entrenched a leader as the former Wallabies captain if he continues to develop as he has over the past year.

2. Dane Zander is a genuine Super Rugby prop

Zander made his first Super Rugby start on Saturday night and showed he belongs at this level. That's a statement few thought likely when the young gun made the wider Reds squad in the pre-season, seemingly as the third-string loosehead prop.

But the Norths Brisbane clubbie, who did not even make the First XV at school, showed plenty of ticker starting as cover for sick prop JP Smith.

Zander took on Smith's aggressive persona against the South Africans to not only hold his own but at one point, out-scrummage Bulls tighthead Trevor Nyakane and roaring with delight as he and front-row partners Taniela Tupou and Alex Mafi helped the Reds win a scrum penalty.

3. Adapting on the run is crucial

 

The Reds trailed at halftime for the first time this season but sealed a bonus point win in a performance that should show them being able to cope with change is as important as following a game plan.

Failing to adapt has hurt the Reds on several occasions this season when they've been in the running for a win.

But they showed they had learnt from their mistakes and were able to change their plan when the Bulls surprised them by spreading the ball wide from the outset, sprinting to a 17-0 lead with three quick tries.

What they take from this performance moving forward will also be crucial - and given the suspension of the season, that may need to be patience, with the next opportunity to play unknown.

4. Wilson injury a blow

Lost in the celebration of the comeback win was the fact that gun rookie Harry Wilson limped from the field in the 55th minute with a knee injury that is set to sideline him for at least a month.

Wilson looks to have suffered a medial ligament tear to his right knee and while medicos worked to strap it heavily after he went down early in the second half, he was unable to continue.

The imminent break in the competition will benefit Wilson, who would have been forced to rest regardless of the competition status.

The 20-year-old was continuing a breakout season with another fine game. A midfield break led to a try for Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, while he again showed a great workrate - even if it was coupled with a few dropped passes in the first half - finishing with 41m from 10 carries, a break and two offloads.

5. Thorn's perspective will help team

Few people are as competitive as Reds coach Brad Thorn, an NRL and Super Rugby championship winner and World Cup champion.

Thorn admitted he wanted "pay" from his team this season after watching the growing pains of a side he knew could evolve into a Super Rugby contender. And he will be deeply hurt by the suspension of fixtures for the "foreseeable future", with the decision ending his team's chances of playing finals footy - in the unlikely event there are finals this season.

But Thorn is a family man above anything and his ability to put football into perspective will be a valuable lesson for his young group.

His call for people to keep calm and look after each other in uncertain times is a good reminder to the young men in his charge that footy is not everything in life.

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