Forwards channel Thorn’s love of scrums
WHEN Brad Thorn was an ill-fitting peg in rugby's maze of rules and specialist forward skills, he found solace in the scrum to forge his confidence.
Those were the days of Thorn's rookie steps in rugby in 2001 when he traded in a successful Brisbane Broncos career in league to sink-or-swim in a code that initially baffled him.
He couldn't get the hang of the lineout stuff, he was an unused warhead as a ballrunner when out of position and the rule book was just too vast.
His first rugby love was the scrum and, as Reds coach, he has drummed a fresh passion for it into his forwards who are feeding off its blitzing power.
Those who doubted the novice coach's credentials need no longer because he has completely grabbed the faith of his 36 players.
Two wins from the opening three games is the Reds' best start to a season since the false dawn of Richard Graham's first campaign in 2014.
There are tough challenges on tour to come with Sunday's clash against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires and the Stormers in Cape Town but the Reds suddenly have some firepower.
"When I first crossed to play rugby I was frustrated with the rules and different things," Thorn said after Saturday night's fine 20-14 win over the Bulls.
"One of the first things I fell in love with was the scrum where I could just let out some frustration and go to work."
With in-form prop Taniela Tupou at the forefront, the Reds scrum mangled the South Africans to win a rare tight-head and earned a glut of scrum penalties.
Scrummaging for the sake of it is nonsense but Thorn also decided to keep up the direct physical onslaught with 100kg-plus centres Samu Kerevi and Chris Feauai-Sautia.
It won't work every week but the two centres racked up an imposing 32 gallops, 200 running metres and 14 busted tackles to tenderise the Bulls.
Thorn said there were "a whole heap of projects out there" but the players are responding.
"(Izack) Rodda is going to play many Tests (at lock), Taniela has physicality to everything and Jono Lance was easily my man-of-the-match for his control and composure," Thorn said.
The Reds included suspended skipper Scott Higginbotham in the tour squad even though he is unavailable for the Jaguares game but reluctantly omitted banned lock Lukhan Tui because they couldn't carry two unavailable players.
Impressive No.8 Caleb Timu admitted there is a sense of not letting Thorn down in the way the Reds are playing.
"Brad has been a massive help and you want to add to the team as much as possible," Timu said.
"That's on and off the field because he really cares about people, we can feel that and respond as well.
"He's a really great guy with a great heart."