The Reds kept their Super Rugby play-off hopes alive with a hard-fought 33-20 win over the Rebels in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Reds kept their play-off hopes alive with a hard-fought 33-20 win over the Rebels in Brisbane on Saturday.
A much-improved second-half showing from the home side saw them take the honours in what was a slugfest of a derby.
In a match that was billed as a duel between the two number tens, Quade Cooper and James O'Connor, it was the Rebels man who took the early advantage with a penalty in the third minute to open the scoring. Cooper responded in kind 11 minutes later as the two teams looked to find a foothold in the match.
After a strong start from the Rebels, the Reds enjoyed the better of the first quarter but were dealt a blow in the 21st minute when flanker Beau Robinson was sent to the sin bin for an unnecessary cheap shot at Scott Fuglistaller. The flanker can consider himself lucky to have spent just 10 minutes off the park, with multiple blows unleashed.
From the resulting penalty Cadeyrn Neville was held up after a strong drive. The Rebels then found themselves camped metres from the Reds line as twice the hosts were penalised at scrum time and twice Scott Higginbotham elected to scrum once more.
When the ball eventually moved to the backs the ball was coughed up and the Reds cleared. Almost as important as keeping their visitors out was that much of Robinson's time off the park had been eaten away.
Matters would get worse for the Rebels as after having so much of the play, Luke Morahan picked up the first try of the match as he intercepted a flat pass from Rory Sidey to race home unopposed.
The Rebels responded almost immediately though as Cooper made the first of a number of missteps as he failed to see Fuglistaller racing up on his blindside as he prepared to make a clearing kick. The flanker charged down the kick and was able to gather and dive over for the five-pointer.
With the scores level at 10-10, a Cooper drop goal two minutes before the break looked to have given the Reds the lead heading into the half, but the fly-half would soon be left red-faced once more.
Again it was a clearing kick that proved his downfall as he hammered the ball into Nic Henderson in front of him, with Sidey on hand to claim the rebound. An O'Connor conversion put the Rebels 17-13 up at the interval.
Cooper and O'Connor traded penalties early in the second forty before the Rebels were dealt a hammer blow in the 51st minute when Higginbotham was forced off the field with a shoulder injury.
The loss of their captain coincided with a marked increase in tempo as the Reds took control of both territory and possession in the final half hour.
With his pack on the front foot, Cooper began to pull the strings with aplomb.
The Reds were rewarded for some attacking intent when Jake Schatz dived over from a maul after the home side had declined the change to take three points, instead setting up an attacking line-out.
Cooper extended the home side's lead with a penalty and made amends for earlier errors as he somehow managed to stretch out an arm and dot down in the 68th minute after a strong run into traffic – certainly not a trademark move.
The game had got away from the Rebels and it was a matter of damage limitation for the Rebels, but they couldn't prevent the Reds from picking up the bonus-point try as Ben Lucas crossed for the fourth try in the final play of the match.
For the Reds:
Tries: Morahan, Schatz, Cooper, Lucas
Con: Cooper, Harris
Pen: Cooper 2
Drop goal: Cooper
For the Rebels:
Tries: Fuglistaller, Sidey
Con: O'Connor 2
Pen: O'Connor 2
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Ed Quirk, 5 James Horwill (capt), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson,1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Ed O'Donoghue,19 Radike Samo, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Mike Harris.
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Lachlan Mitchell, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Cadeyrn Neville, 19 Gareth Delve, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Bryce Hegarty, 22 Kimami Sitauti.
Referee: James Leckie