Winger shows Reds won't relent
JUST like the Queensland Reds he plays for, Rod Davies knew he had to add to his game if he was to improve in 2011.
The new-look Davies and Reds were both on display on Sunday as they beat the Western Force 21-20 in the Super 15 rugby opener at Suncorp Stadium.
Davies, like the Reds, became known for his pace and opportunism last season.
On Sunday, it was his new-found aggressive attitude and defence that got him, and the Reds, home against the Force.
“It was a pretty tough game,” Davies said.
“It was hot out there. We were happy just to get away with a win.”
For most of the match it looked like that might not happen.
“They (Force) have four world-class back rowers and they played so hard on the ball,” former Ipswich Grammar School student Davies said.
When the Force scored with 13 minutes remaining to open up a six-point lead, it looked like curtains for the Reds.
Davies hadn’t endeared himself to his teammates when sin-binned late in the first half for throwing a punch at Force halfback Brett Sheehan. However, he made up for it in the second with a tenacious kick-chase and some tough tackling.
“He gets under the skin of a few players but it was a bit of a brain explosion,” Davies said of giving Sheehan a short right jab.
“Luckily it didn’t cost the boys too much.”
The Reds didn’t let the Force take advantage of Davies’ absence and even when James O’Connor scored, there was no sign of panic.
The fragility of previous seasons has been replaced by a confident resolve.
“A couple of years ago, we would have lost that game,” Davies said. “But we had the attitude of doing whatever it takes.
“We had to find a way to win.”
That meant shelving last season’s flamboyance and grinding down the Force on a sweltering Brisbane afternoon that registered 35 degrees at kick-off.
“We were dropping balls and forcing passes,” Davies said. “We went away from that, played more tactically with Quade (Cooper) and Will (Genia) kicking a bit more with a good kick-chase.”
The kick-chase became Davies’ responsibility and he repeatedly pressured the Force’s back three with his lightning pace before they could plan a response.
Davies pace was matched by his defence.
“It’s my job as a winger to put the pressure on their wingers and put them into touch,” he said. “Defence is more of an attitude thing.
“I have worked on it in the off-season – technique-wise and more aggression.
“It was something I was lacking.”
The pressure applied by Davies’ kick-chase gave the Reds the opportunities late in the game to score two tries – to hooker Saia Faingaa and his replacement James Hanson – which got them home.
“Two years ago, the guys would have dropped their bundle after they scored their try,” Davies said.
“It was the same in the first game last year against the Waratahs (which the Reds lost in the final minute).”