Heroic Reds edge out Waratahs
April 23, 2011
The Reds' Quade Cooper goes airbourne to celebrate a try during his side's victory over the Waratahs © Getty Images
The Reds produced an outstanding defensive display to beat the Waratahs 19-15 at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane and cement their place at the top of the Super Rugby standings.
Fly-half Quade Cooper steered the hosts to their first win over their fierce rivals in seven years with a 19-point haul courtesy of a brilliant individual try - celebrated in spectacular fashion - three penalties, a conversion and a drop goal. But it was his side's outstanding ability to withstand a second half onslaught from the Waratahs that defined the game and saw them record seven victories in a row for the first time.
Waratahs fullback Kurtley Beale got the better of his kicking duel with Cooper in the early stages of the first half to boot the visitors into a 9-3 lead but their hopes took a blow with a nasty-looking ankle injury to winger Drew Mitchell. Cooper then reduced the arrears from the kicking tee before pouncing for what would be the only try of the game in the 35th minute - splitting the Waratahs' defence with his trademark quick feet before stepping past Beale.
The Reds' playmaker added the extras and slotted a drop goal on the stroke of half-time to extend their advantage. The Waratahs stepped up their efforts after the break and their dominant forward pack hammered the hosts who stood up to the challenge time and time again with centre Tom Carter denied a try by the Television Match Official. They eventually had to settle for a Beale penalty that brought them back to within a point but a late effort from Cooper set the seal on a gutsy Reds victory.
The Highlanders ended the Crusaders' six-game winning run with a 26-18 victory in their clash at Trafalgar Park in Nelson. The Crusaders were missing key players such as All Blacks Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read but they could have few excuses, outplayed across the park by a Highlanders team which impressed in the forward exchanges and with some uncompromising defence. The hosts threw plenty at the resurgent southerners in the second half, including introducing regular starters Sonny Bill Williams and Sean Maitland to the backline after starts on the bench, but the Highlanders defence stood up to the task and they always looked in control. The win, their seventh from nine matches, keeps them firmly in the running for the play-offs.
The Highlanders, 44-13 losers against the Crusaders in Dunedin earlier this season, trailed for much of the first half after a try from Zac Guildford and the boot of Matt Berquist had put the Crusaders in control. But tries from wingers Siale Piutau and James Paterson saw the Highlanders claim a narrow 15-13 lead at the break. Paterson struck again shortly after the re-start to extend their advantage but centre Adam Whitelock crossed soon after to give the home side hope. But the Crusaders could not overhaul their visitors in the final quarter with two more Tony Brown penalties also robbing them of a bonus points.
Elsewhere, the Western Force notched only their third win of the season with a 26-21 victory over the Bulls in Perth. Centre James O'Connor kicked six penalties and picked up a yellow card in an eventful game to steer the hosts home and hammer another nail into the Bulls' hopes of defending their title. Tries from hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle and winger Bjorn Basson had given the Bulls a 15-12 advantage at the break but O'Connor chipped away at that lead before fullback Cameron Shepherd pounced for a crucial try. Bulls fly-half Morne Steyn, who finished with 11 points, slotted a late penalty to ensure a bonus point for the visitors although it still leaves them with plenty of work to do in the South African conference.
Four tries in a vastly-improved second-half display saw the Sharks fend off a battling Hurricanes outfit to record a 40-24 victory at Kings Park in Durban. Lwazi Mvovo crossed twice after the break along with Meyer Bosman and Ryan Kankowski to avoid an upset that had looked on the cards when they trailed 24-18 after 55 minutes. Returning fly-half Pat Lambie contributed 15 points from the boot as the Sharks strengthened second place in the South African conference. The Hurricanes hopes of reviving their season, which has seen them win just twice in nine games, was undermined by poor discipline with Ma'a Nonu and James Broadhurst were both shown yellow cards.
The Chiefs held off a late comeback from the Lions as they claimed a 34-30 victory in Johannesburg. The visitors had been leading 31-16 in the second half but converted tries from Josh Strauss and Cobus Grobbelaar set up a nervous finish for the New Zealand side. However they held on and fly-half Stephen Donald's late penalty secured the win.
Scott Waldrom scored tries in the 21st and 29th minutes to set the Chiefs on their way and the visitors grabbed further tries through Romana Graham, Toby Smith and Dwayne Sweeney to give them a commanding lead. Michael Killian's try for the Lions before half-time and the accurate boot of Burton Francis, which kept them in the contest during the first half, almost proved significant but their second-half comeback fell short.
The erratic Rebels troubled the Blues but never threatened their early lead as the New Zealand side ran out 40-23 winners in Auckland on Friday night. The Blues exploded out of the blocks and led 17-3 before the visitors responded and the deficit was reduced to five points late on. But Jared Payne's try with five minutes to go sealed the victory and Luke Braid crossed for the Blues' sixth to put the icing on the cake.
Rebels fly-half Danny Cipriani was exposed in defence for Rene Ranger's first try in the second minute and the Blues winger outpaced the chasing defenders to make it an early double on a breakaway. Cipriani again made a poor read, this time running up out of the line on the other flank, to allow a break that led to Joe Rokocoko's try.
Winger Cooper Vuna hit back for the Rebels with an elusive solo effort and counterpart Lachlan Mitchell crossed after Gareth Delve's superb offload as he was being turfed over the sideline to help reduce to the margin to 23-17 at half time. But Cipriani, superb from the kicking tee but culpable for three Blues tries, had the ball wrestled away by Benson Stanley near halfway and the Blues centre raced all the way to score the bonus point try.
Cipriani kicked the Rebels back to within five points though, and No. 8 Delve was held up as a handful of opportunities slipped away. But the comeback ran out of steam and the Blues finished strong to record a flattering if deserved victory.
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