Reds Run the Bulls Ragged - Green and Gold Rugby

Reds Run the Bulls Ragged

Reds Run the Bulls Ragged

Here we arrived at week 7 of the 2020 Super Rugby season. It seems that I have stuck my head above the parapet just in time for the whole box and dice to shut up shop for the year. There will be some serious decision making in the next 24 hours as to what the rest of the year  is to bring. With New Zealand effectively closing their boarders as of midnight tomorrow night they are pretty much cancelling any home games against teams from other countries for the foreseeable future, probably closing the competition down for 2020.

Are the Highlanders going to make it home in time not to have to enter 14 days of self isolation? Or will it matter? Is this the last time we will see the Sunwolves? Are those bells we hear tolling for Super Rugby in general and Australian Rugby in particular? I don’t mean to be negative, but this is going to be tough on the SANZAAJR set up. The rumours are that there may be a two week hiatus but only time will tell.

In the mean time, let’s set if the Young Guns can roll the Old Bulls and improve the outlook on the season for the long-suffering Reds fans at least.

Harry Wilson with one of many offloads.

Harry Wilson with one of many offloads.


The Match

Do we have to talk about the first half? I guess so…

Not sure what had got into the Reds camp but they seemed to be expecting the Bulls to kick for territory…. but they weren’t. Well not all the time. The room the Bulls were being given to run meant to we were seeing plenty of their back three. I think we all knew that Rosko Specman had some speed when we were watching him on the Seven’s circuit, but he managed to sit the Reds defenders on their heels and then either take the gaps himself or put his team mates into them. Fairly swiftly the Bulls were out to a 17 point lead.

About the 20th minute the Reds realised that trying to take the Bulls on in the air was not working, and handing possession back to them was just allowing more speed to be shown. Ball in hand leads to points….. Two converted tries (that’s right CONVERTED) in the last 12 minutes of the half meant the score at the break was 14 to 17 with the visitors in the lead. The second of the tries was a thing of beauty with Isaac Lucas being on the end of a string of beautiful offloads from the forwards. The icing on the cake was Hegarty kicking the conversion. Although he wasn’t perfect, his percentage was above 50% for the game which is an improvement on last week…..

If the Reds were to end up losing this game it is going to be because of lapses in discipline and the first 20 minutes of out of character poor defence. CFS spent 10 minutes in the plastic chair for a late tackle on Russo, and Tupou was lucky the Referees were looking the other way when he dropped the shoulder into Josh Strauss in a ruck.

Both sides had their HIA issues in the first half. The Bulls lost Lizo Gqoboka before 3 minutes was up and Jock Campbell departed on the Red’s side around the 20th minute, then Strauss from the aforementioned interaction with Tupou. When Speight had his eyebrow taped back on and Stewart saw some stars from crashing into a Bull’s chest, the field was starting to look like the scene of absolute carnage.

With the changes in the Reds pack for this game, I was feeling a little nervous about how they would hold up against the South Africans. The first half did not really alay any fears. The second half showed some promise though, with the Reds absolutely destroying the Bulls pack in a couple of instances. The Bulls did get their own back later, but I think that we can say that the safety of the Reds scrum is in good hands. Dane Zander played a blinder in his first start. In my notes to determine a MOTM I think that I mentioned every forward, including the replacements, at least once.

The second half was just pure Red. From start to finish. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto scored within a minute of the teams returning to the field after the break and that set the tone for the rest of the game. Their defence kicked in, the scrum stood up or more correctly didn’t, and the reserves really were finishers. McDermott, Daugunu and Hoopert all made an impact when they took the field.

Any performance that can almost get Big Brad to both smile and (almost) swear has to be good. I am just a little disappointed I could not actually be in the stands with the other 7,500 people who braved the plague.

Wow! What a game! 41 to 17. That is a good bonus point to get.

The Reds go into an official bye next week which could not be coming at a better time by the looks at the walking wounded. We all wait with bated breath to see how the COVID-19 reaction plays out, but I am excited for the rest of the season. If we get to see it.


And the Little Man Flies! Isaac Lucas crosses for a Try.

And the Little Man Flies! Isaac Lucas crosses for a Try.


Match Turning Point

Whatever changed at the 20-minute mark to turn the Reds back to the game plan they have been playing all season needs to be bottled, and preserved for the future. It is nice to see an Australian team that can adapt on the run. And that plays with passion, heart and commitment. But then again I probably would too if I had to face Thorn in the dressing sheds.


To determine the MOTM when it is my responsibility, during play I note down the names of the players that catch my eye, in a good way, and figure that them with the most mentions is probably going to be close. As I said before every single one of the forwards got a mention and so did a few of the backs in the second half. The notes from the 29th minute says it all though – Wright (try), Wright (tackle), Wright (turn-over). I will put my hand up and say that I was one of the people who thought that perhaps Thorn had made a mistake when he named Liam as captain. Tonight demonstrated exactly why he was named. His leadership to keep the boys calm in the first 20 minutes as the Bulls got out to a 17 point lead, then his leadership to bring them home and keep them tuned in to take the bonus-point win. Words and actions exemplified.

Wallaby Watch

I feel awful…… I can’t tell you who in the squad has been capped for the Wallabies in the past. Can I blame a very busy life? Outside of the usual suspects, I think that Wright has to be figuring into calculations. I would also like to see Daugunu included in the squad if he can sort out his tackling technique. I think that his strength surprises the opposition and he has some pretty handy speed.

Filipo Daugunu & His Hot Shoe Shuffle

Filipo Daugunu & His Hot Shoe Shuffle


Reds – 41
Tries: Wright, Lucas, Salakaia-Loto, Mafi, Hoopert, Tupou
Conv: Hegarty (4/6)
Penalties: Hegarty (1/2)

Bulls – 17
Tries: Papier, Specman, Gelant
Conv: Libbok (1/3)
Penalties: N/A


Feauai-Sautia – Yellow card (15:32) for a late tackle on Russo.

  • Awesome win from the Reds! gotta admit they scared the shit out of me early on. Not switched on at all.

    Taniella Tupou played 80 minutes for the second week in a row! Huge effort from that man.

    • Brisneyland Local

      SUlly, you are a Reds fan. I thought you would be used to having the shit scared out of you!

    • numpty

      Mafi also I believe. Who had the best game I’ve seen from him around the ground. His lineout throwing still needs work though.

    • Nutta

      Sully – I reworked an old article from a few years ago for some content whilst we are on rations if it’s useful. Maybe it would get a laugh. If you publish I’ll know to keep going… otherwise… we don’t!

  • Adam Bonner

    Such un Reds-like win! How many times have the reds come back from a 17+ point deficit? Bulls (like the Sunwolves) are not a flash team but that showed some real ticker to take the lead and then put the foot on throat. Slowly slowly this young squad is putting together some very admirable performances. Would love to see them knock over a big scalp at some point during the season!

  • idiot savant

    The South African forwards ran out of gas after about 30 minutes. Then the game turned. For the first 30 the Reds forwards looked soft and powder puff, unable to stop gain line and unable to make gain line themselves. I remember thinking the Reds forwards think they are so much better than they really are and lack physicality. Breakdown coaching is still an issue. The Reds are soft and inaccurate at the breakdown. Stewart secures more attacking ruck ball than any forward and that really shouldn’t have to be the case. Once again the reds were hurt by speed. Hats off to the attacking mindset though and the offloads. As the Bulls fatigued this became the winning strategy. I cant help but think that the start might have been better with 3 genuine loose forwards. LSL is great but he’s a lock. When the opposition comes hard at you like tonight, Wright needed an ally. McReight or ASY would have been better.

    This is possibly the last game the Reds will play this season. That might save Thorn’s arse. I admire what he’s done in terms of rebuilding the priorities of a club from the ground up. Thorns kiwi experience has made him understand what makes a club. And he knows that the Reds have a unique tribal advantage that can work in their favour so long as the club itself has the right priorities in their playing base. That said, he is really more a director of rugby than a coach. If the Reds are to build on the great strides Thorn has made in culture, coaching of the breakdown, line out, maul, and kicking has to improve along with match day strategies.

    • SuckerForRed

      I agree that the Bulls forwards fatigued. The loss of their starting loose head within 3 minutes didn’t help. I think that your view of the Reds forwards might be a bit skewed by the game they were playing in those first 20 mins. The Reds were standing back as though they were waiting for the Bulls to hoof it down field on every play and this gave the Bulls space to run. And, yes they then beat the Reds with their speed. Once the Reds worked out that holding the ball was the best plan, and that they needed to shut down said speed when it had the ball, their performance turned around.

      Re Stewart, Yes is is not your average back in that he likes the ruck work. I guess that is still in his muscle memory from playing flanker most (if not all) of his schoolboys days. But don’t write of the work done by, in this game, Wright and Wilson, then McReight and ASY. I think that we all notice Stewart’s efforts at the ruck precisely because he should not be there in the modern view of the game. You could always use the same argument about AAC and Hooper in the Wallabies lately. Please don’t contact me this is a deliberate overstatement & stir.

      I said to someone last night I think the Reds have built a good coaching team. If Thorn’s ONLY contribution, and I highly doubt it, is the culture that we are now seeing, Then I am starting to believe that he was a good choice and is worth the money. I guess this year clearly demonstrates the need for good assistants who are specialists in any coaching set up.

      • idiot savant

        I think the Thorn experience has definitely been worth it. Rugby is a team game and the importance of dying for the jersey and your mates with sustained 80 minutes of intensity and tenacity is just as important as game plans and technique coaching. Its often the edge that kiwi sides have. So full marks to Thorn and the Reds hierarchy for trying to breed that.

        I remain concerned with the line out and maul coaching which is Thorn. I have been worried from the start that Thorns ideas might be outdated and the line out has been poor since he took over. This hiatus might be an opportune time to find someone else to take over that aspect of the game.

        I have also been surprised by the almost overnight transformation of the backline from a side that played ‘give it to Kerevi’ last year, starved its outside backs and struggled to average more than 2 tries a game, to the most expansive side in the competition. I dunno who is responsible. If its Mackay he was hiding under a rock last season. Or maybe it has been Thorn telling Mackay he wanted more. Whatever, its great to watch. Hope Im still around to watch them next year!

    • numpty

      Reds weren’t hurt by speed, Specman didn’t gas anyone. They were hurt by poor defense on the fringes with players biting when they didn’t need too. All they had to do was shadow towards the sideline – note no pts scored on Speights wing who is very good at this. Malolua had a hand in a few of those lapses, and tbh Hegarty/Campbell/CFS didn’t really look much better. LSL was very good with ball in hand, still lumbers in D a bit for mine. McReight looked quick and hungry. Reds win most of their lineouts, its the after which hurts them. Not hitting the 9, dropping it in the maul etc. Execution!

      • idiot savant

        Yeah they targeted Hegarty’s wing and it paid dividends. Hegs was very uncertain about which man to take. And youre right there was a collection of less able defenders on that flank with Malolua and LSL. But it was the speed they got the ball there that created the space and lack of time for Hegarty and others to make decisions. Speed of ball movement is what has troubled this Reds side in the last couple of years. The Tahs and Rebels both easily beat them with this and of course the Sunwolves flogged them in Japan. But I think the Reds defence has improved since then.

        On the line out, I think in 2018 they had close to the lowest success rate in the comp. They were better last year but not by much. Both years coached by Thorn. And lets face it they were monstered by the Jags and Sharks this year. They would’ve beaten the Sharks with a decent line out. And Wright chose a scrum over a line out for a penalty against the Cru which showed how much confidence he had. This week was better but the opposition was poorer so I wouldn’t read too much into that. They have the talent but they need better direction.

        • numpty

          Agreed their ball movement was good, but I do not understand why they could not drift, pretty basic stuff really. There were a few half chances on Speights wing, but went unnoticed because they were diffused so easily. I think their D has plenty of starch, but a few technical aspects still need improvement. Spacing is often too far apart (1st try), and they struggle to wrap around rucks near their try line (brumbies made them pay for this).

          Re: the lineout, their calling and jumper selection is good, its just the execution. Poor throw, pass down to the 9 or bringing the ball into the maul is where they struggle. i.e. unforced errors. They weren’t monstered by the jags, they were ahead for much of the game and were on the end of a 13-1 penalty count. Poor from them to not dig in, but you can’t say they didn’t match the jags for much of the contest.

          If they improve their kicking game and tidy their lineout, they will win more. They played much better territory wise against the bulls and this is why they came away with it, rather than give the bulls a sniff. Because when the reds did turn it over (as they often do with a high offload game), the bulls had to clear it rather than go on the attack.

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks SFR. Just watched this morning as I had internet issues yesterday. What a great game and it shows that Thorn is actually starting to build something pretty good. Still a wee way to go but definitely on the right track. Discipline is still an issue at times and friggen Thor is playing his way out of Wallaby contention with his stupid lack of discipline. Can someone please tell him he’s nowhere near as tough as he thinks he is and to stop trying to be the tough guy all the time.
    I like Mafi and for me he’s the form 2 so far this year. He needs to work harder on his throws but his work around the park is massive. I’d have Wright in a heartbeat over Hooper. Doesn’t cover as much ground around the field but a hell of a lot more effective. He also demonstrates real leadership.
    Bummer the season’s all but over now with COVID-19 because I think the Reds could have really gone far

  • Reds Revival

    It’s hard to imagine that any more games will be played this year (it’s only March, I’ve got absolutely no idea what I’m going to look forward to for the rest of the year!!!). I like the idea of the local derbies still being played, but not sure if that will become a reality.
    Well done to the Reds on a great game. I thought that they were gone at 17 – 0, but really impressed that they were able to change their game plan on the fly, and it played huge dividends. They are clearly a team who are learning as the season progresses. Notice how their late game fade outs have now disappeared.
    I thought the Reds defense was pretty brutal at times, and kept the Bulls behind the ad line.
    The forwards played well, particularly, Dizzy Zander, Tupou, LSL, both young locks, and especially Captain Wright. I hadn’t thought of it before, but I like the comparison between Wright and John Eales. You can certainly see him developing into that sort of leader.

  • Human

    Is that the first time this year that the Reds have been behind at HT?
    If so, do it more often.

  • Yes, we have to talk about that first 20-30 minutes.

    The Reds showed amazing resilience. You can look back and find examples of teams coming back from a similar scoreline down but they’re rare and if it’s your team on either side, they tend to be etched in the memory for decades. Wales v France last year doesn’t past the decades test yet, but instantly springs to mind as one that will live for the ages.

    This match is going to be up there too. Clearly the Reds believe in each other, and in their systems, and clearly those systems are pretty solid as well. I was thinking, when they were 17-0 down my prediction of a comfortable win, when they could afford to kick none-for again was looking really bad. But they came through for me… Of course my tag of the Reds as the unluckiest team still holds. OK, it was only the Bulls, but the Reds are starting to look like this season had a slow start and they might have worked it out. Then COVID-19 kicked the season into hiatus.

  • Nutta

    Hey All. Fantastic win against a rugged opponent. Before we wax too lyrical we need to respect that the Bullies had won bugger all this year – so they weren’t the Cru – but certainly in the first half they showed if you give them dumb easy ball then they will make you pay. However this is possibly the best bit of the win; the ability of the Reds to read, adjust and kick on after being 3 tries down. Really grand stuff. Zander was huge especially as a novice against a good T5. I agree with the MOTM award.


Rugby fetishist. Reds & Wallabies supporter. Have been known to watch all grades & levels. Warning - gets fired up! And yes I am a GIRL..........

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