Queensland are continuing to reap the rewards of James O’Connor’s work with English kicking guru Dave Alred, with the five-eighth helping boot the Reds to Super Rugby AU victory over the Western Force on Friday night.

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O’Connor’s kicking proved the difference in the seven-point win at Suncorp Stadium, nailing all four try conversions and then a late drop goal to ice the game for this team.

The Wallabies utility also booted a crucial 50-22 with the Reds then scoring off the lineout.

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Before the March shutdown of the regular Super competition, goal-kicking cost the Reds victory against the Crusaders.

With O’Connor sidelined with injury, the team tried three different kickers but failed to convert a single one of their four tries in the 24-20 loss.

Alred’s most notable pupil was former England great Jonny Wilkinson, who slotted the winning drop goal in the last minute of extra time against Australia in the 2003 World Cup final.

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He has also worked with Ireland’s Johnny Sexton and All Blacks star Beauden Barrett, and is also a swing specialist for golfers Luke Donald and Francesco Molinari.

While Alred has been with the Reds on a part-time basis for a year, he has remained in Australia due to COVID-19, with O’Connor saying he had transformed both his kicking and his mindset.

“It’s been full on,” O’Connor said after the match.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m very appreciative of Dave giving me his time.”

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The 30-year-old said that he stopped kicking altogether about three years ago with persistent ankle and groin injuries affecting his range of motion.

But after re-joining the Reds from the UK this year he had regained confidence both in his place and ball-in-hand kicking thanks to Alred, with the pair working side by side during lockdown.

Rebuilding his technique from scratch, he said he was now striking the ball much better.

As well as the Reds, the improvement is a boon for the Wallabies, who have struggled for consistency in the key area in recent years.

– Melissa Woods

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