Brad Thorn is optimistic his Queensland Reds’ tradies will benefit from the ultimate apprenticeship after bowing out in a Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final loss to the Crusaders.
The Reds were beaten 37-15 in Christchurch on Friday, but not within giving the powerhouse side a mighty fright.
Down 16-8 at halftime, they scored first in the second half and would have led if five-eighth Lawson Creighton’s penalty kick with 30 minutes to play had been accurate.
There were moments of brilliance in the four-tries-to-two loss, wingers Suliasi Vunivalu and Filipo Daugunu both heavily involved and scoring scintillating five-pointers.
But ultimately it was 11 straight losses to the Crusaders, 20 straight losses away to New Zealand sides and a 0-6 record against Kiwi outfits this season.
That comes after a pre-season focused on narrowing the gap between them and the New Zealand teams after the Reds won the 2021 domestic competition but were blown away in trans-Tasman play.
“There’s been improvement but we have to go another step, or a couple more steps, because at the end of the day we want to win,” coach Thorn said.
“Good sides, that’s what they do, that’s why they call it the money time. You’ve got to make the most of your opportunities.
“We went toe to toe, but credit to the Crusaders.”
Injuries plagued them this season though, with James O’Connor and Taniela Tupou notable absences on Friday to headline a casualty ward that remained in the double figures.
The sheer number sidelined allowed the likes of second-rower Connor Vest, hooker Matt Faessler and five-eighth Lawson Creighton unexpected time in the saddle.
“You’d like to think there’s been some real growth in the depth,” Thorn said.
“Lawson is a tradie, still does a few cashie jobs, and he’s running 10 against a World Cup star player in (Richie) Mo’unga.
“Our hooker is a chippie, going head-to-head with Codie Taylor and (lock) Ryan Smith called the lineout, he’s an air-con electrician.
“It’s really cool and I’m sure you’ll see a lot more of them next year.”
Thorn said co-captain Tate McDermott had been “knocked out cold” but had recovered to be walking and talking in the rooms after he was medi-cabbed from the field.