McKenzie reflects fondly on Reds reign
July 21, 2013
Ewen McKenzie has happy memories of Queensland despite a heavy defeat to the Crusaders in his final game in charge © Getty Images
A harrowing final-game thumping will not taint Ewen McKenzie's memories of his Queensland Reds tenure, with the new Wallabies coach insisting he'll reflect fondly on his time at Ballymore.
The rampant Crusaders' 38-9 Super Rugby qualifying final win in Christchurch drew a disappointing curtain on McKenzie's successful four-year reign at Queensland. The Reds were outclassed and overpowered by the home side, suffering their first four-try loss of the season.
Shattered captain James Horwill admitted the defeat was harder to accept because McKenzie didn't deserve to be farewelled with such a poor display. The mentor, who will now officially take over the Wallabies post, said it wouldn't tarnish his Queensland stint which featured a major revival for the code in the state, the 2011 title and three straight finals appearances.
"It is disappointing but my memory of the Reds is over four years," McKenzie told AAP. "There was a couple of low moments, and that was one of them. But there's a heap of highlights and I have way more positive memories than negatives. You wish there would be some fairytale but in the end there's stark reality. And (Saturday night) the reality was the Crusaders were very good and we weren't."
Queensland were not helped by a one-match build-up to the play-offs - compared to the Crusaders' three-game springboard - but the Reds weren't offering it as an excuse. McKenzie agreed a lack of attacking potency cost them through the season, and also felt the absence of injured wingers Rod Davies and Digby Ioane was telling against the Crusaders. He also lamented injuries to centres Anthony Faingaa, whose defensive organisation and impact was sorely missed as the Reds trailed 21-6 at half-time, and Mike Harris.
"When you are facing the best you need all hands to come and in the end we didn't have enough firepower," McKenzie said. "They did different things than what we anticipated ... and their different options worked for them. They got a couple of what we considered pretty cheap tries early from bad defence from us and that was it, because once you chase the scoreboard it gets pretty hard."
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Horwill was again plagued by calf tightness to be replaced on the hour mark while Will Genia's knee problem also appeared to affect the world-class scrum-half.
Former Western Force coach Richard Graham, who has served beside McKenzie this season, steps up as coaching boss in 2014 but his predecessor believes the Reds should remain a leading contender.
Led brilliantly by Kieran Read and Dan Carter, plus a two-try display by Ryan Crotty, the Crusaders are now in their 12th straight semi-final and deserve competition favouritism for an eighth title.
"They'll be hard to toss," McKenzie said.
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