First-half blitz seals the deal
The Reds scored a deserved 32-17 win over the Sharks in Brisbane on Friday to stay in touch the Super Rugby leaders.
For the home team it was a game of contrasts - the Reds being sublime in the first half and less than ordinary after the break.
The visitors were consistent throughout - very sloppy, very poor and as a result suffered their fifth successive defeat.
The Sharks, when they had the ball in hand, looked like an uncoached primary school team - totally clueless.
And nobody was worse than captain Keegan Daniel, who set the tone with a string of errors early in the match.
The Reds had a field day with all those unforced errors - scoring three tries inside the first quarter and forcing the visitors to play catch-up from the outset.
And the bonus point was secured on the half-our mark as the visitors' error count continued to mount and their missed tackles reached double figures.
There was more urgency in the Sharks' play after the break, along with the Reds easing the foot off the gas, and the visitors managed the early score that they required.
However, they were still left with a huge deficit to make up and unforced errors continued to hamper their progress. As was the case in the first half, the captain, Daniel, set the tone with his poor play.
The Sharks kept plugging away at a Reds team clearly defending their lead and conceding far too many penalties.
However, the visitors managed to gain little more than some consolation from the fact that they won the second half 14-3, after trailing 3-29 at the break.
The Sharks made a statement of intent with some big hits early on, but execution - particularly with Patrick Lambie's kicks out of hand - remained a problem.
It didn't take the Reds long to make the Sharks pay for some sloppy play. First Quade Cooper threw an insane overhead pass and then Saia Faingaa exposed the Sharks' brittle defence to go over for the opening try. Quade Cooper added the extras - 7-0 after just six minutes.
Eventually holding onto the ball long enough the Sharks worked their way into the Reds 22 and earned penalty, following some very cynical tactics by the Reds - which allowed Lambie to slot the penalty and narrow the gap to 3-7 after 11 minutes.
However, the Sharks - through a combination of some questionable officiating and their own sloppy play - afforded the Reds a great counter-attacking chance and a sublime kick from Will Genia set up Rod Davies for the second try. Cooper couldn't add the extras - 12-3 after 17 minutes.
And just as the first quarter came to an end the other Faingaa, Anthony, slipped over in the left corner from a great floating pass by Cooper and equally impressive stepping. Cooper added the extras - 19-3.
A scrum penalty against the Sharks allowed Cooper to make it 22-3 on the half-hour mark.
Davis got his second, the bonus-point try for the Reds, after Keegan Daniel again made an error on defence. It has to be added that the try had its origins with a great Cooper grubber. Once the Reds had won the turnover in front of the Sharks' posts it was simply a numbers game and quick hands. Cooper added the conversion - 29-3, which was also the half-time score.
The Sharks came out firing after the break - an inside pass from Lambie to Lwazi Mvovo setting up a ruck close to the Reds posts and quick hands putting Piet Lindeque over in the right corner. Lambie's conversion made it 10-29 four minutes into the second half.
It took a while, but the next try came in the 65th minute - Derrick Minnie going over off the back of a powerful maul. Lambie added the extras and at 17-29 there was a glimmer of hope for the visitors.
With eight minutes remaining Cooper slotted a crucial penalty, the culprit again Sharks captain Keegan Daniel, to make it near impossible for a comeback.
And the game ended much like it started, the Sharks making an error that cost them a chance to score - the Reds taking away five points and the Sharks nothing.
Man of the match: JP Pietersen, playing at outside centre, got involved in all aspects of the game right from the outset - even winning a turnover. Lwazi Mvovo was also powerful with the ball in hand. Liam Gill, Eddie Quirk and Rob Simmons were the workhorses up front. Quade Cooper, with his trademark passing and stepping game, as well as Will Genia, with a great kicking game, pulled the strings for the Reds. Our award goes to Reds captain Will Genia.
For the Reds:
Tries: S Faingaa, Davies 2, A Faingaa
Cons: Cooper 3
Pens: Cooper 2
For the Sharks:
Tries: Lindeque, Minnie
Cons: Lambie 2
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (captain), 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Ed O'Donoghue, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Ben Tapuai.
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Piet Lindeque, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Odwa Ndungane.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)