Scott Higginbotham says the Reds can bounce back. Picture: Fiona Goodall/AAP
Scott Higginbotham says the Reds can bounce back. Picture: Fiona Goodall/AAP

Different year, same result for struggling Reds

THE best start to a Queensland Reds' season since 2013 has belly-flopped into just another losing campaign, which desperately needs to finish with back-to-back wins for coach Brad Thorn.

The 39-16 loss to the Blues in Auckland on Friday night was borderline unwatchable at times because of the handling errors and lack of direction from the halves in dewy conditions against an ordinary Kiwi side.

It was 13th versus 14th and, sadly, the Reds were at their recent Super Rugby level after showing such promise with early season wins over the Brumbies, Bulls, Jaguares and Lions.

Reds boss Thorn cannot be immune from the scrutiny of any other recent coach, with a promising 4-5 launch having faded to 4-10.

Right now, he has just found a different route to a below-par four-win season, the exact number of victories from Richard Graham (2015) and Nick Stiles (2017) before the axe started to hover.

No one is suggesting that fate for Thorn.

The players clearly play for him, the scrum is close to the best in the competition - after earning eight penalties against the Blues - they fight to the end of most games, some of the tackling has been superb, and no coach has backed more young players for a brighter future.

But in among that there have been large slabs of stilted, unimaginative patterns of play.

The backline play has inadequately converted the gains of the pack, where Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Izack Rodda, JP Smith, supersub Alex Mafi and Caleb Timu have all added to their reputations big-time.

Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn has some work to do during the off-season. Picture: Fiona Goodall/AAP
Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn has some work to do during the off-season. Picture: Fiona Goodall/AAP

If anything, Thorn needs more support, or better support, to prop up his shortcomings, and to take more responsibility for some poor tackling techniques in his side.

In Auckland, the Reds copped a dud yellow card when prop Tupou made a clumsy, yet never dangerous, shoulder-only lunge at the thigh, which was basically a failed attempt to tackle.

It would not have been even a penalty three seasons ago, yet a more cynical shoulder jolt on centre Rieko Ioane had more intent, was potentially more damaging and was waved on.

Tongan Thor takes umbridge with a Blues player. Picture: Getty Images
Tongan Thor takes umbridge with a Blues player. Picture: Getty Images

The Reds must upset the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium and beat Japan's Sunwolves on Friday week for a 6-10 finish with a flourish.

"They are both home games and we lost by big points to both earlier in the season, so we definitely want to square up one-win apiece with two strong results to finish the season," Reds skipper Scott Higginbotham said.

After five straight losses, Higginbotham can still see a bounce-back.

"The young guys are resilient, they are experiencing new things in Super Rugby week in, week out, and I know how much this derby against the Rebels will mean to them," he said.


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