Cooper seals late win for Reds
April 26, 2013
Queensland Reds fly-half Quade Cooper put in another solid display to press his case for a Wallabies recall
© Getty Images
A heavily fatigued Queensland Reds hung on for a gutsy 12-11 Super Rugby win over the Blues on Friday night to complete a first New Zealand sweep by an Australian side.
In-form five-eighth Quade Cooper kicked four penalty goals, including a high-pressure wide attempt in the 75th minute, to steal the four points from the impressive Auckland outfit at Suncorp Stadium.
The Blues scored the only try of the match and expertly ran the tired Reds around the park. Queensland were feeling the effects of last week's energy-sapping 19-19 draw with the Brumbies after a short six-day turnaround.
But John Kirwan's side failed to deliver the killer blow in the frenetic and highly physical encounter in front of an appreciative crowd of 31,050.
Queensland continued to come up with last-ditch tackles and saves, none more important than Will Genia's in-goal effort ahead of Francis Saili with 15 minutes left and the visitors leading 11-9.
Cooper grabbed the chance to kick his side home when Blues skipper Ali Williams was penalised for swinging around the side of the Reds' driving maul and he duly delivered.
It was in stark contrast to an easy miss - his only from five attempts - just 20 minutes earlier, which would have also given the home side a one-point lead.
Then errors by Williams and fellow All Blacks veteran Keven Mealamu in the Queensland quarter allowed the Reds off the hook in a tense finish to a heavyweight battle.
The win gives them the provisional competition lead and a 4-0 clean sweep of the Kiwi teams they play this home-and-away campaign, becoming only the second team behind the 2010 Stormers to pull off the achievement.
After being the first Reds side not to take a penalty attempt in a Super Rugby clash against the Brumbies, they turned a new leaf by taking all shots on offer - including three in the first half for a 9-6 lead.
It was after Cooper slotted his third three-pointer for a 9-6 lead when the Blues struck from the restart, stealing the ball and then probing patiently before impressive fly-half Chris Noakes helped put centre Jackson Willison over out wide.
Queensland move atop the Super rugby standings after a hard-fought win against the Blues (Australia only)%]
The Blues' intentions were apparent from the kick-off, with the visitors going 22 phases before attempting an attacking grubber kick in the Reds quarter.
Queensland were content to hold their line and defend in the hope of counter-attacking off errors. They had their try-scoring chances, with three-quarters Rod Davies, Digby Ioane and Anthony Faingaa all making first-half breaks but again lacked precision to finishing their opportunities.
Cooper was again sharp and creative in attack but it was his strong body-check on dangerous centre Rene Ranger, and other scrambling defence, which would have most pleased Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
Winger Ioane put a dramatic week with his contract dispute behind him to play strongly but it was the Blues' backs that saw far more of the ball.
"A lot of things didn't go right for us tonight, we didn't play the way we wanted to but the outstanding thing is we showed a lot of guts and determination," Reds skipper James Horwill said.
"The Blues are a side that test you. You saw that right from the first minute when they spun the ball wide and they used the whole width of the pitch, they're a tough team and we did well there."
Blues captain Ali Williams lamented the fact that his side conceded the late match-deciding penalty.
"It's so frustrating. It comes down to one point and it comes down to what the referee (Craig Joubert) sees ... you win some, you lose some and today it just didn't go our way," Williams said. "That hurts, that sucks."
The Reds are away to Western Force in Perth next week, while the Blues have home advantage against South Africa's Stormers.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September