AT THE start of the 2011 Super 15 season Rod Davies hoped he wouldn’t be going on holidays this week.
But as he headed to the Sunshine Coast for a well earned break yesterday, Davies couldn’t have been happier.
The former Ipswich Grammar student and his Queensland teammates were given time off from training as reward for wrapping up the Super 15 minor premiership on Saturday when they beat the Chiefs 19-11 in Hamilton, New Zealand.
It meant the Reds won’t play any rugby this weekend and can prepare for their semi-final at Suncorp Stadium the following week.
It is the first time since 2001 the Reds have been involved in the Super Rugby finals and more than justifies the decision Davies made in 2008 to sign with the then struggling team.
Queensland finished the 2008 season with the wooden spoon, about the same time Davies signed with them after two seasons at the Brisbane Broncos.
The following year they only improved one position, yet Davies says he always had the belief that happy days were not far off.
“There were a lot of boys there around my age who I grew up playing with,” Davies, 22, said.
“I saw it as a great opportunity because I knew the Reds were rebuilding.
“I knew we had a good strong chance over the next few years.
“It only takes a few years to get a bit of experience and push for the finals.
“The rebuilding is over now and we’re the minor premiers.”
The arrival of coach Ewen McKenzie at the start of last season was the accelerant that saw the Reds reach their peak ahead of almost anyone’s schedule.
“When Link came in he built a whole new culture at the club,” Davies said.
While Queensland had a top two berth sewn up prior to the final round, they were chasing a win against the Chiefs to secure the minor premiership.
It looked no certain thing, with players such as Digby Ioane, Anthony Fainga’a, Beau Robinson, Ben Lucas, Luke Morahan and Brendan Hynes all out injured.
Such was the crisis McKenzie turned to 33-year-old Caleb Ralph to bolster the squad.
Ralph, a former All Black, had not played Super Rugby since last representing New Zealand’s Crusaders in 2008, but has been playing club rugby for the Sunshine Coast.
However the Reds proved again that they can cope with any situation.
With the Reds’ backline most affected by injuries, and the Chiefs backs their strength, Queensland adopted a fiercely confrontational, forwards dominated approach.
It blew the Chiefs pack out of the way in the opening 20 minutes as the Reds established a lead they never surrendered.
“Our forwards laid the platform with a pretty good bash up,” Davies said.
“I don’t know if it was the best game to watch, playing in the wet in Hamilton.
"But we had to eliminate their back three.
“They’ve got one of the world’s best wingers (Sitiveni Sivivatu) and a great fullback in Mils (Muliaina).
“So we tried to attack their set piece and it worked.
“We’ve been able to adapt.”
For Davies, this is the biggest difference in this year’s team.
Last year they proved they could play exhilarating attacking footy.
Now they can play whatever type of game the circumstance, or opposition demands.
“The change from last year is we’ve been able to adapt to different game plans,” he said.
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