Reds get their Kiwi sweep
Fri, 26 Apr 2013 11:33
Blues score the only try
The Reds got a clean sweep of victories over New Zealand teams for the first time in a regular Super Rugby season.
Twice coming from behind the Reds relied on four Quade Cooper penalties to give them a thrilling one-point (12-11) win over the Blues in a brutal arm-wrestle in Brisbane on Friday.
The win - coming after the wins over the Chiefs (in Hamilton last week), the Highlanders (in Dunedin) and the Hurricanes (in Brisbane) - will see the Reds sit at the top of the table for at least the next 24 hours.
The Blues, coming off a bye, looked fresher than the Reds - who had only a six-day turnaround.
Another key aspect was the Blues' defence, which allowed them to secure a number of crucial turnovers.
As Blues captain Ali Williams said in his post-match reaction: "It sucks to lose by one point."
It was amazing to see, an Australian team at times out-scrumming an New Zealand rival. The Reds not only won some crucial penalties in the set piece, but even won a turnover.
However, in the breakdowns the Blues found a valuable source of possession.
And the visitors also kept the ball in hand a bit more than the Reds, who at times let themselves down with poor options - the most notably when Rod Davies ran away from his support and butchering what looked like a certain try.
In keeping the ball through multiple phases - going into double figures repeatedly - they denied the Reds opportunities to attack. But they were sometimes a bit too lateral.
But in the end it was the Reds' greater composure that saved the day, as they took the few opportunities that came their way.
Quade Cooper and Chris Noakes exchanged penalties in the first quarter, two each, as the game remained very much a stalemate in the early stages.
It was just after the third Cooper penalty, just short of the half-hour mark, that the first try came. From the restart Culum Retallick reclaimed the ball and from there the Blues worked it through the phases till Jackson Willison slipped over in the left corner. Noakes was wide with the conversion attempt, but at 11-9 the visitors had the lead for the first time.
That is how the scores stayed to the half-time break.
Early in the second half Albert Nikoro took a shot from 50-odd metres out and while he had the distance, he lacked direction.
Blues captain Ali Williams was penalised at a tackle/ruck thing in the 54th minute, but Cooper missed from virtually right in front.
As the half wore on, the Reds became increasingly desperate and threw a few 50-50 passes that did not come off, allowing the Blues a reprieve.
With six minutes left on the clock the Blues were penalised for a transgression at a maul inside their 22. It allowed Cooper a chance to make amends for his earlier miss. And this time he was on target from a much more acute angle as the Reds finally hit the lead again - 12-11.
The Blues wasted no time to get back on attack, but Kevin Mealamu knocked the ball on just a couple of metres from the line. That was followed shortly afterwards by another crucial error from captain Ali Williams, who also knocked on also inside the Reds 22.
It allowed the Reds to hold on for the win.
Man of the match: For the Blues Charles Piutau and Rene Ranger had their moments on attack, but it was some Ranger's work at the breakdown that made him so valuable. Peter Saili was one of the Blues' most productive ball carrier among the forwards and a workhorse on defence, while Steven Luatua also got himself involve in all aspects of the game, being particularly impressive when carrying the ball in hand. For the Reds Quade Cooper had a couple of great breaks and even produced a monster hit on Rene Ranger. However, our award goes to Reds scrumhalf Will Genia - not just for his great reading of the game, but also an amazing workrate on defence.
For the Reds:
Pens: Cooper 4
For the Blues:
Pens: Noakes 2
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 22 Dom Shipperley.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Albert Nikoro, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Ronald Raaymakers, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Francis Saili.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)
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