The efficient display sees the Reds dislodge the Brumbies from their perch as the top side in Australia
The Reds dramatically secured top spot in the Australian conference with a 32-16 bonus-point victory over the Waratahs in Brisbane on Saturday.
The efficient display against their fierce rivals sees the Queensland side dislodge the Brumbies from their perch as the top side in Australia following their loss to the Blues in Canberra earlier in the day.
The Reds signalled their intentions early on with a couple of attacking forays from deep in their own territory. Quade Cooper found a flying Dom Shipperley with a well-weighted cross-kick, but Adam Ashley-Cooper got across to force the wing into touch in the 22.
The defending Super Rugby champions kept the pressure on and secured a turnover which was given to Higginbotham on the blindside. The big No.8 drifted well to get the ball down in the corner for the opening try which gave the home side a 7-0 lead once Mike Harris slotted the touchline conversion.
The Waratahs got on the scoreboard through a Bernard Foley penalty shortly afterwards, but soon found themselves on the back foot again as the Reds forced them to defend in their 22.
The visitors absorbed the pressure and managed to genrate some forward momentum of their own. A clearance kick by Will Genia was charged down into the in-goal area and Chris Alcock looked certain to score before the ball was kicked from his grasp and over the dead-ball line by Dom Shipperley and it was the Reds who were the next to score instead.
Another clever kick from Cooper was picked up by Digby Ioane in the 22, and once Waratahs tighthead Paddy Ryan had been shown a yellow card for repeated breakdown infringements Reds openside flank Liam Gill squeezed over in the corner to extend his team's lead to 12-3.
Despite being down to 14 men the Waratahs managed to respond with a try of their own when a Drew Mitchell collected a deft grubber from flyhalf Bernard Foley to touch down in his 100th Super Rugby game.
The gap was reduced further when Ashley Cooper picked up a loose ball and casually knocked over a drop-goal, which brought the last points of the half as the Reds went into the changerooms with a 12-11 lead.
The home team bolted out of the blocks in the second half in the knowledge that nothing less than a bonus-point victory would secure them passage into the play-offs to try and defend their title, and they got their third try early on thanks to a sloppy line-out from the Waratahs.
The Sydney side were camped on their own tryline when hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau threw one over the back to Reds tighthead James Slipper who crashed over for the try from close range to make it 17-11.
The bonus point they were hunting was wrapped up when Shipperley pounced on a ball that was spilled forward by Drew Mitchell on the Waratahs 22.
The speedy wing raced away to dot down in the corner and put his side in prime position to snatch the top spot in the Australian conference.
That blow seemed to take the wind out of the Waratahs' sails completely and Genia was able to press home the advantage by scrambling over on the blindside for the Reds' fifth try with 20 minutes left to play.
The Waratahs were given an opportunity to get back into the game when Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Berrick Barnes and they duly took advantage when replacement Tom Carter was put over in the corner from an attacking scrum.
The Reds just needed to hold on for victory to secure a home play-off game and they made sure with a late Harris penalty which put the seal on a composed effort.
Man of the match: There were impressive performances from the Reds forwards but the star of the show was scrumhalf Will Genia who dictated matter from behind the scrum.
For the Reds:
Tries: Higginbotham, Gill, Slipper, Shipperley, Genia
Cons: Harris 2
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Mitchell, Carter
Yellow cards: Paddy Ryan (Repeated infringements, 23 mins)
Quade Cooper (Dangerous tackle, 63 mins)
Reds: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (captain), 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Radike Samo, 19 Beau Robinson, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Ben Tapuai.
Waratahs: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 Dave Dennis, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Lopeti Timani, 19 Jono Jenkins, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Tom Carter, 22 Tom Kingston.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Steve Lesczcynski (Australia)