McKenzie full of praise for defence
July 9, 2011
McKenzie was drenched at the full-time whistle after witnessing his side complete a remarkable season © Getty Images
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie singled out the franchise's defence for praise after he guided his side to victory in the Super Rugby final on Saturday.
The Reds withstood relentless Crusaders pressure in the first-half of their 18-13 win before pulling away in the second 40. Restricting the Crusaders to just one try was testament to McKenzie's well organised side as they blunted the potent Crusaders attack which included All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams and prolific wing Zac Guildford. The Crusaders sole try came through a moment of genius from New Zealand No.10 Dan Carter and despite Brad Thorn having an effort ruled out by the TMO, the Reds stood firm.
"We knew it was going to be very intense for the first twenty minutes and it was a matter of not conceding points, which is pretty much what happened, and we knew that we had to could keep pushing through and keep at it," said McKenzie. "We were confident across eighty minutes that we had great impact off our bench and we were confident that fatigue would play a role."
The Reds victory on Saturday completed a remarkable journey for the Queensland franchise who had finished with the wooden spoon in 2007. "I think the team and the organisation deserve some sort of recognition for the journey," McKenzie said. "It has been a long journey within a very short space of time and the way you get recognition is by winning."
In the final round of the 2007 season, the Reds' trip to the high veld coincided with the lowest point in their proud history - a humiliating 92-3 hammering by a Bulls side who were anointed as champions for the first time a fortnight later. Reds captain James Horwill was part of that debacle, so last night's victory was especially satisfying for the Wallabies lock.
"That's probably the lowest point we've ever been, that game in Pretoria, and unfortunately I was part of that," he said. "Now we're arguably at the highest point we've ever been. To do that in a short amount of time has been pretty special. To be part of that is pretty cool to be honest."
Reds playmaker Quade Cooper was delighted to silence the team's doubters. "Everyone has been writing us off all year. No matter what we did, everyone was coming up with an excuse to say why we can't win the competition," he said. "Nobody can take it away from us, no matter what anybody says. The belief the boys showed was incredible," Cooper said. "Come the start of this year, the belief was there. Every one of the boys believed in each other, the jersey and the Reds."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton