If Ballymore is Qld rugby’s spiritual home, then the Rugby-Gods were certainly not smiling on the Reds last night. From the diabolical weather, to the poor crowd, to the result of the game, to the injuries to Rocket Rod and Hynes, there wasn’t a whole lot that went right for the home team.
It was a night when the weather not only exposed the short-comings of Ballymore as a modern rugby venue, but also exposed a naïve Reds team.
That’s not to say the Rugby-Gods didn’t display moments of charity toward the Reds, they did. In fact it could be argued that with Will Genia’s run-away try in the first minute, and a strange touch-judge decision that lead to Lauire Weeks’ try in 61st minute, they were overly generous.
But to lay the Reds’ defeat at the feet of some omnipresent higher force is trite. The simple fact is the Reds didn’t play the type of rugby the conditions demanded and were constantly putting themselves under pressure.
The Reds were outplayed and out thought by a more organised and astute Auckland team who overcame several hurdles to grind out a deserved win and in the process deny the Reds the elusive back-to-back victory.
As the rain hammered down the Reds continued to chance their luck by launching attacking raids from within their own half only to see many of them come to nothing through handling errors or breakdown turnovers.
Post match Ewen McKenzie outlined the plan the Reds took into the match and lamented how the Reds were slow to adjust to what was required as the conditions deteriorated.
“The idea was to play a pretty direct type, short-side, contestable kicks where we could get pressure on. That changed when the weather didn’t get any better, it sort of became a real field position type game from that point on.
“We really didn’t get to that probably until about the 60 to 65 minute mark when we started to play in that rhythm.
“They played it smarter than we did. It was a different game at the tackle contest this week with a lot of penalties against the attacking team so there was a lot of adapting to be done out there which they did better than us.”
Although the Reds played some attractive and exciting rugby it was mistakes at key times that kept the Blues one step ahead. Rene Ranger’s try in the 32 minute was a perfect example.
From a Blues knock on inside the Reds 22, Will Genia scoped the ball up and put in a booming kick that sailed some 60 meters then bounced the other 30 odd to go dead in-goal. From the ensuing Blues scrum, Ranger crashed over carrying 4 Reds defenders which was poor however the try had it’s genesis from the original mistake by Genia.
It was the same as the game wound down with the Reds forcing critical turnovers only to give the ball back to the Blues at the next play phase.
“We made some fundamental errors at different points in time and that was enough to keep them at our end of the field and keep us under pressure.
“We forced a turnover in the scrum but then threw two crooked line-outs, so we sort of lurched from on side to the other.” Link explained.
While not being happy with the loss, McKenzie defended the Reds choices to run when the kick was the safer option.
“We were possible slightly ambitious early but we tempered that. There were some simpler options we could have taken but we chose a more complicated route, but we got some good return for that.
“We made some great breaks late in the game and got pulled up short of the try line three times. If Will Chambers gets his fingers on the ball (to score instead of knocking on) then it’s a different game isn’t it, and we’d be having a different conversation now.”
“Toward the end of the game when you’re two points down with a minute-and-a-half to go, what do you do? Do you shut it down and take the bonus point or do you try and win the game?
“You can debate that for a month of Sunday’s but we were obviously interested in winning the game.”
I got the feeling if that particular debate were to take place, Link would have been on the affirmative side for the bonus point.
WALLABY WATCHWALLABY WATCH
Put his hand up: Will Genia – Made a few errors but continues to play well above the level of the other Australian halfbacks. Took the added responsibility of the captaincy in his stride also.
Did himself no favours: Peter Hynes – Had a quiet game before being replaced early in the second half with a finger injury that may keep him sidelined for a week or two. Kicked poorly on a night when the Reds needed better.
Bolter Watch: Lauire Weeks – The Reds scrum looked pretty decent last night and Weeks mixed his set piece work with some nifty stuff in attack. Last season’s Rookie of the Year is continuing his good form.