The Reds set up a play-off with the Crusaders in Christchurch after holding on to win 14-12 against the 'Tahs in Sydney on Saturday.
The Reds set up a play-off with the Crusaders in Christchurch after holding on to claim a 14-12 victory over the Waratahs in a dull derby.
It was never going to be a thrill-a-minute clash between the Australian duo, especially with the Reds knowing that a point would see them finish the season in fifth. But with the prospect of either a trip to New Zealand to face the Crusaders or Canberra to the Brumbies, it created intrigue.
Of course plenty of attention was centred on Quade Cooper after Robbie Deans' departure from the Wallaby hot seat. But as has been the case throughout his ongoing career, it was a Jekyll and Hyde performance from the Reds playmaker as he created a try but also gifted one.
Cooper opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a penalty but the 'Tahs would hit back two minutes later when Cam Crawford got over thanks to a powerful surge at the uprights. Brendan McKibbin's conversion made it 3-7 to the home side to cap a bright opening passage.
It was then to be Cooper the brilliant when his fired miss pass to the left bamboozled the home defence and sent full-back Ben Lucas. Unfortunately for the fly-half, he was off-target with his conversion but McKenzie's outfit were now ahead by a single point.
A contentious call would follow on 25 minutes when John Ulugia was sent to the sin-bin for a no-arms tackle on Rod Davies, but the numerical advantage did little to increase the 'Tahs' attacking intent. Instead it was the Reds doing all the running before Cooper's mishap.
Looking to unlock the defence 35 metres out, Cooper's inside ball was pounced upon by McKibbin who ran 50 metres before handing to Berrick Barnes who crossed in the right-hand corner to make it 8-12. Unfortunately for Michael Cheika's outfit his scrum-half's kick was off-target on the half-hour mark and so the score stayed as it was until half-time.
The second-half was not much better in terms of a spectacle as despite Cooper's three points six minutes following the turnaround to make it 11-12, there was little quality.
One man capable of such a trait would soon play no further part in the game – and probably the season – after Reds wing Davies suffered a horrible looking knee injury in contact.
Cooper would hand his side the lead on 55 minutes from the tee and despite the Waratahs' best efforts via Michael Hooper going close and Barnes' late missed penalty and drop-goal, the Reds would hold on, setting up a clash with the Crusaders on the road next week.
Tries: Crawford, Barnes
Pen: Cooper 3
Waratahs: 15 Cam Crawford, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Dave Dennis (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jed Holloway, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: Luke Holmes, Jeremy Tilse, Will Skelton, Pat McCutcheon, Mitchell Chapman, Matt Lucas, Tom Carter, Ben Volavola (one to be omitted).
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 James Slipper (captain), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Jono Owen, 18 Radike Samo, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Jono Lance, 22 Dom Shipperley.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)