Reds 22- Force 19
Although the Reds ended up scoring more points than the Force, it is not what you would call a victory. Both coaches would not be entirely happy with their respective sides performance but I suppose you don’t want to be playing your best rugby before the season starts do you……..
Positives for the Force
They look very comfortable with what they are doing; they played real rugby from the outset, no trial-throw-it-around bullshit. They blitzed the Reds who looked shell shocked and unable to get into the game in the first stanza.
The Force backrow was outstanding, and not because David Pocock scored a hat-trick just after half-time. They dominated the breakdown and were able to disrupt the Reds ball at the back of most rucks. Pocock is massive, he looks like he has put on about 5 kilos from last year.
Said Pocock to G&GR after the match “Last year I lost weight throughout the season so I have put on some kilos this year. I feel good and I’m ready to go”….LOOK OUT!!! Sources close the Force told G&GR that had Pocock set a new bench press record in a pre-season weight session by lifting 170 kg, beating Digby Ioane’s two year old record by 10 kgs.
Giteau didn’t really get out of third gear but on a night like this he was probably was never going to anyway. Kicks well, makes his tackles and makes opposition defenders around the 2nd and 3rd channels look cod-ordinary. The highlight of the evening was a twinkle-toed effort around some tired Reds’ pigs and a magic seed to Junior Pelesasa which didn’t result in a try but should have.
The scrum owned the Reds in the first 20 minutes and later in the game took a tight -head. Consensus in the press box was the Reds’ scrum got the better of them by the end of the night but I dispute that, in my mind the Force certainly had the better of it.
Justin Turner, an 18 year old Force academy product who looked the business after being called in at the last minute to cover for Josh Valentine and Chris O’Young after they both did ‘strings at training during the week, got shortened up after slipping a great ball to Pocock for his first try after only two minutes, but brushed himself off didn’t look back. Word from the Force camp is that Valentine will be ready to go next week but O’Young might miss the game, not to worry as Turner looks like he can do the job.
Negatives for the Force
When the big guns went off around the 50 minute mark, the Force fell apart and allowed the Reds to start their come-back. To me this raises questions about the squad of the Force, will they cope with injuries, particularly to either Giteau, Pocock or Sharpe. When you add to this the Force 2nd XV getting done 31-10 by a throw together Reds academy team, and serious questions need to be raised about the depth of the Force.
Despite the dominance of the first 50 minutes, the Force didn’t really attack, maybe this was part of the brief from coach John Mitchell, however they seemed content to sit back and wait for their opportunities from turnovers rather than going looking for points themselves.
They simply did not score enough points relative the opportunities that presented themselves – not a crime for pre-season but something that might become an issue as the year progresses if they don’t develop a more team orientated attack rather than just relying on Gits.
Positive for the Reds
Digby Ioane has learnt how to catch and Quade Cooper has learnt how to tackle!.
Diggers scored a hat-trick to match Pocock’s and the Reds looked far more enterprising than the Force creating more scoring chances even if they failed to capitalise on most of them.
The Reds this year look as though they will score points on a regular basis, something which has eluded them in year past. As the game progressed the Reds were able to find their attacking options out wide where they are blessed with real pace in the form of Diggers, Peter Hynes, Brando Va’aulu and the surprisingly capable 20 year old, Blair Connor .
Fitness – after years of getting done in the last 15 minutes of games due to a lack of condition, it looks as though the Reds may have gotten this part of their preparation 100% right. Right up until the final whistle the Reds were full of running. Indeed all throughout the game the Reds played an up-tempo style and challenged the Force to stick with them.
Speaking to G&GR Coach Phil Mooney was also pleased with his sided level of fitness “In the second half we really gained some momentum and I was really pleased with our conditioning – I thought that was quite telling”
Mooney then went on to send The Cote into raptures by using the cliché lovers cliché “It was a game of two halves” to describe the turn-around in the Reds fortunes after half-time
As soon as things got a little unstructured, the Reds looked most comfortable playing a ‘jungle ball’ style of rugby at time which can be low percentage, but high return if the passes stick. After years of straight jacket rugby this is a massive step forward and should at least get the crowds at Lang Park cheering on occasions.
Negatives for the Reds
Coach Phil Mooney put the Reds lack of composure when on attack down to “youthful exuberance” which is being a bit kind, I liken it to pre-mature ejaculation. Young men not knowing the joys that could be had if only they would just remember that it all doesn’t have to be done in such a rush. Take your time, slow down, enjoy it!!!
The Reds consistently dropped attacking ball last year and it looks as if old habits die hard. Leroy Houston alone was responsible for shelling three passes that would have lead to tries, sad to think that Diggers might be taking classes on ball handling, huh!!
The Reds set piece was awful, three lost line-outs inside the Force 22 plus another lost line-out that would have lead to a Force try but for an errant pass. This must have forwards coach Mark Bell very worried indeed. When you throw into the mix a tight-head to the Force and Bell may well be verging on basket case considering the Reds face the Bulls first up.