Coaching guru called in to save Queensland Reds’ season
English kicking guru Dave Alred must work a miracle in a week to rescue the Queensland Reds from their embarrassment as the worst kicking team in Super Rugby.
The kicking coach's return to Ballymore could not be better timed after a month away working with golfers like Italy's 2018 British Open champion Francesco Molinari.
Playing the Pretoria-based Bulls at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night is the start of a make-or-break block of six matches which can repair the Reds' 1-5 start.
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The Reds play four of those at home and meet four teams lower on the table who are limping with problem areas of their own.
"It's time to re-set. We have a lot to play for with plenty of Australian Conference games (four) in this middle part of the season," Reds coach Brad Thorn said.
Thorn processed the cost of zero-from-four goalkicking in a challenging Christchurch wind last Friday night when all the quality in four tries was wasted.
"We knock over our conversions and it's a different result which is the big frustration," he said.
Alred's performance-under-pressure principles were in part refined by guiding England's 2003 World Cup-winner Jonny Wilkinson to superboot status.
He has a far harder task at the Reds where the kickers are performing like they were picked up on special from the bottom shelf at Kmart.
Alred has been on board as the Reds' kicking coach for more than a year on a part-time basis so the inconsistencies are already his responsibility.
The fact some of the team's most ineffectual kicking has happened while he's been away suggests players like Jock Campbell, Hamish Stewart and Isaac Lucas need positive reinforcement.
It's less about technique and more about when to kick and why it's just as important in a game plan as the sharp attack that produced 13 line breaks against the Crusaders.
Three charged down kicks were all hacked off the back foot, not with front-foot ball.
One poor Stewart penalty kick to touch was meant to set up a 5m lineout just before halftime but went out 15m from the line instead.
Thorn has to accept he blundered too.
Handing the goalkicking to fullback Campbell, a part-timer at club level, failed.
The job should immediately revert to Bryce Hegarty, the team's best goal-sniper, because Campbell's 57 per cent success rate (12-from-21) in four games has been substandard.
No reliable goalkicker seemed to weigh on skipper Liam Wright's mind too when he passed up two shots at penalty goal and went to set piece plays that failed to deliver tries.
That's six points and scoreboard pressure wasted.
Reinstating Hegarty, with Campbell moving to the wing, and the return of flyhalf James O'Connor should help lift the kicking quality in the team.
You have to bang the drum about the Reds' poor kicking because five players (Harry Wilson, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Henry Speight, Taniela Tupou and Liam Wright) had standout games in Super Rugby's toughest cauldron and deserved far better than a 24-20 loss.