Beaten Reds take another lesson for future

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Lynn McConnell     30 Jun 2018     Getty Images

Refereeing continued to have its impact, after the events of the June Tests in both New Zealand and Australia, and the two sides each spent time with two players in the sin-bin during the game.

Thorn's reaction was, "The game's in an interesting place…I don't know if that's enjoyable for people. Everyone's talking about that at the moment aren't they, both sides of the Tasman. It's interesting. I don't know what I'm supposed to say about it.

"Probably the No.1 thing…like a lot of people, fans, coaches, players, everyone, is it's hurting the game," he said.

The two yellow cards involving dangerous tackles, one for lifting and the other for a no-arms grasscutter, were of concern. He felt penalties were being given and yellow cards as well, when they should award a penalty and get on with the game.

"It's an interesting place the game's in if that's where you want to go. For me it's hard, I was a physical player, enjoyed hitting rucks hard, played in league in the 90s. I remember as a 12-year-old my coach pulling me aside at halftime and saying 'when you pick a guy up drive him into the dirt'. I'm not saying we do that, I'm just saying for me it is an interesting place. Referees are trying their best, somewhere, something…"

At the same time, he said it had been a loss for his side and he didn't want to be all sour grapes about it and wanted to respect to his former World Cup-winning teammate Jerome Kaino who was playing his last game on Eden Park.

"Well done to the Blues, it's been a long, hard season for them, the coaching staff and the players.

"Jerome is a true soldier who was a joy to play next to. The biggest respect you can get from your team is that they want to play next to you and I'll tell you what, when he stood next to me I felt good, so I was pleased for him tonight,' he said.

The conditions, with heavy dew and cold, were new to many of his players and they would learn from it. Thorn said he knew from his time playing with the Crusaders that when Australian teams came over and had to play in those sorts of conditions they were vulnerable.

There were a lot of similarities between the two sides at the moment. They both had proud histories in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, they had won a Super title each, in 2003 for the Blues and 2011 for the Reds, but apart from those recent successes they had both been experiencing some humbling years.

Both teams were attempting to rebuild with younger players involved and in the Reds case that had been tough to watch but the rewards had been coming in the way his side's set-piece play had developed and the Reds scrum had been one of the better units in the competition. That was down to the work of scrum coach, the former Wallaby Cameron Lillicrap.

"There's something building away there and I think it would be fair to say you wouldn't have seen Australian teams with those sorts of assets in the forward packs for a while. It's a good sign.

"We've got a group of young guys, the school of hard knocks and we learnt another lesson [tonight]," he said.

Thorn said, when talking about flanker George Smith who will be 38 in a fortnight, that he didn't give 'a stuff' about age. Thorn was 18 when he started in league and was 41 when he finished playing rugby.

"As you've seen I've got all these young guys but I've also got a 38-year-old out there and I love it. So I don't care what your age is, if you're good enough, go to work and boy, that guy can go to work and he's been doing it for 18 years and I've got massive respect for him.

"It's ok for me, I used to hit bodies mainly and that seven position, there're the guys who get hit and usually they're a smaller size, very brave. He's up there with Richie and these other great guys, you've got Pocock at the moment. So much respect," he said.