Cron rues Force mindset following away defeat to Reds

Sat, May 25, 2024, 1:24 PM
by Ben Somerford
Western Force head coach Simon Cron and captain Jeremy Williams spoke to the media following the Round 14 away loss to the Queensland Reds.

Western Force head coach Simon Cron pinpointed his side’s skillset and mindset as the key issues in the 59-13 loss to the Queensland Reds with a Super Rugby Pacific finals spot on the line.

The Force spurned the opportunity to move into the Super Rugby top eight for the first time this season as they were soundly beaten by the fifth-placed Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

The Reds’ dominance in the nine-tries-to-one victory was underlined by 160-85 carries and 8-1 clean breaks while the Force struggled to maintain possession and build pressure.

Cron lamented his side’s mindset, given what was at stake for the Force, having called for a “must-win” mentality during the week.

The WA side will now need nothing less than a Round 15 victory over the ACT Brumbies next Saturday at HBF Park to remain in finals contention, and to hope other results go their way.

“There’s not a lot of good out of that game,” Cron told reporters. “Our biggest takeaway is probably mindset.

“The last two games there’s been some good stuff from us as a team, today was not. Large error count, handing the ball back far too much, transition speed, folds defensively and contact zone dominance, both sides of the ball.

“First contact was poor, second contact was a ride down. I think they had over 60 per cent gainline, not good enough by us.”

When further pressed, Cron doubled-down on his side’s mindset, claiming some players had left their heads on the plane from Perth following encouraging back-to-back wins over the NSW Waratahs and Fijian Drua over the previous fortnight.

“That’s the thing we’ve got to fix; consistency of performance,” Cron said.

“We talk about mindset, skillset, structure. Skillset tonight gave them a lot of possession and our mindset, that’s something we’re going to have to address as a team this week.

“The only thing I’d say about travel this week is that we had a number of guys stay on the plane, probably. We’ve got to look at why, what and how and fix that.

“Also the Reds played really well tonight, so credit to them. They carried well, they played basic rugby well. In comparison, we gave them a lot of possession and a lot of ball.

“Even things like ball placement, ball carries, down the edges knocking it on, letting it go, we’ve got to fix those.”

The defeat extended the Force’s winless away record to 15 games, dating back to Round 10 of the 2022. The performance was in stark contrast to the dazzling first half display when the Force beat the same opposition, the Reds, 40-31 in Round 5 in Perth.

Cron said the playing group had addressed their travel record during the week but conceded it was something they’d need to look into further.

“We were really good when we played the Brumbies so that was a really good away game,” Cron said. “For 50-60 minutes against the Rebels (we were) really good.

“We’ve got to look at a couple of things, like the day we travel, there’s a whole lot of things we’ve got to look at that can maybe help with more time on the eastern seaboard.

“But we played the Reds in pre-season and came at the same time and performed a lot better than we did tonight. We’ve got to look at that mindset and look at ways that we can fix it. It might be a mental skills area that we’ve got to work on.

“People struggle when they come to us and we seem to have an issue when we travel over. We’ve just got to look at the best way to do it.”

Cron was also upbeat about debutant Ronan Leahy, who he said did the basics well on limited opportunities with the ball.

Force captain Jeremy Williams lamented his side’s ill-discipline, with two second-half yellow cards, along with a lack of contact dominance.

But the Force skipper remained hopeful about clinching a finals berth with victory over the Brumbies next Saturday.

“We’re definitely going to keep playing like we’ve got a shot at the finals,” Williams said.

“We’ll review this, we’ll have a good look in the mirror. We’ll take our learnings, then we’ll flush it.

“New week next week, new challenge. We’ve got to be obsessed and do everything we can next week to get the win at home.”

The WA club will host the ACT Brumbies on Saturday 1 June in the final round, with tickets available via Ticketmaster, along with the Force’s Flexi Membership, with four tickets to the Round 15 game for only $75.

The Round 15 game will be preceded by the Rendezvous Scarborough Challenge Cup final between Associates and Kalamunda from 3pm.