For the second time this season the Reds took to Suncorp for a daytime match, drawing 19,579 punters to see them host the Cheetahs on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Thankfully in the month that has passed the temperatures have dropped a little, so much so that Link felt comfortable promoting assistant water boy James Horwill past the bench and straight into the starting side and the captaincy.
The Cheetahs were up from their base on the Gold Coast, fresh from their clinical display against an inept Waratahs side. With no changes to the starting line-up, they took to the field looking for their second win outside the Republic on this tour, and indeed ever.
The confidence was on full display when their opening play was to spin it wide, but loose passing soon saw the Reds pressuring hard on their try-line, and a clearing kick from deep in-goal was the only way out. The ball only just went out; Digby Ioane took a quick throw and a couple of phases later the only thing stopping Beau Robinson finding the line was a marginal forward pass call. It was a sign of things to come.
The Reds earned a couple of early scoring opportunities due to infringements by the Cheetahs, but Quade sent both kicks wide.
Then a sneaky kick from a turnover saw the Cheetahs hot on attack. Eventually the momentum was halted by a penalty, which Sias Ebersohn slotted to have the Cheetahs up 3–nil — a start similar to their win last week.
When the Reds’ third opportunity came, Quade stepped up to shoot for 3 points, but Kev said ‘no no no’, opting instead to kick for touch. From the resulting lineout a loose pass was scooped up by Ioane, who ran the 22 metres to the line, fending off the only defender to get hands to him, and planted the ball under the posts.
The Cheetahs tried to strike back, with Sias Ebersohn having a penalty attempt sail wide, and then a beautiful drop goal attempt, taken from 40-plus metres out while playing under a penalty advantage, bounced off the black dot on the crossbar to deny them the points.
The Reds then struck again. A dominant tackle by Kev Horwill saw the ball won and flung to Cooper. He spotted an overlap and engaged his jet shoes to get past the defensive line and draw the fullback, before passing the ball to Rod Davies who ran it in for his first try.
The Cheetahs started to lose it at this point and they put the first of three kick-offs out on the full. From the resulting scrum, the Reds worked a move on the open side: Genia passed the ball to Cooper who ran an inside line before popping the ball to Ioane at pace, who stepped four defenders before taking the ball to ground; Genia was there quickly and quick hands by A. Fainga’a sent the ball to Davies, who went over in the corner for his second meat pie.
The Cheetahs put the next kick-off out on the full, but this time they were saved by Daley being penalised for hinging at the engagement. They kicked for touch and won the lineout, but were penalised for not releasing the ball. The Reds also went for the lineout and in the phase following, Cheetahs captain Wilhelm Steenkamp was given ten minutes in the bin for a (marginal, but definitely around the neck) high tackle on Davies. The Reds again took the lineout option and from five metres out, drove but were held out; they then reset the maul with Saia Fainga’a carrying the ball at the back, and drove over the line to secure the bonus-point try three minutes before half-time.
Ebersohn stepped up as the Cheetahs’ designated kicker-offer, but unfortunately he also put the ball out on the full, so it was back to the centre for another scrum. The Reds nearly pulled off an identical move to the one that saw Davies score, but it broke down.
The Cheetahs were clearly filthy with themselves (or perhaps disgusted by the temporary change room conditions at Suncorp) and opted to have their oranges out on the field — as one keen observer noted, “Looking to get some tips from the Under-8s”.
In the opening plays of the second half, the crowd beheld a sight rarely seen when Quade Cooper made a front-on tackle. He continued the magic a little while later, when the ball was knocked back into the Reds’ in-goal area: he picked up the ball, scanned for options, then made a crazy cross-field kick in-goal to Ioane, who stepped the chaser and took off down field. Diggers drew the fullback and passed to Lucas in support, but the ball went to ground and the move broke down.
The Reds began to settle and produced a turnover from a strong counter-ruck (probably Kev went back after our last Podcast and pumped up the boys). Genia (shortly after having a barf on the field) fished the ball out and took a 60-metre run to score.
The Reds were attacking even in defence, with Beau Robinson celebrating his new contract with a massive hit on Floors. There was also a Cooper break and pass that saw Rod Davies drop his chance to write his name into the record books as the first Red to score a hat-trick in Super rugby.
However, the Cheetahs were the next to score. From an offside penalty on the halfway line, Sarel Pretorius took a quick tap and the two props showed quick hands to get the ball to Fabiaan Juries, who drew Cooper (defending at fullback) before offloading to Steenkamp, who won the footrace to the line and scored his team’s only try.
Genia had the final say, however, when he scooped on a knock-on at the base of the ruck and ran 30 metres to score his second touchdown.
It was a win built on a solid forward platform allowing the backs space to run and solid defence, at times bordering on offence, — but Link will know he still has some work to do if his boys are to play the perfect game. I had a word to Link, who said he’s looking forward to the tour as a chance for the team to spend some time together and work on a few things.
Reds 41 – Tries: Ioane, Davies (2), Genia (2), S. Fainga’a; Cons: Cooper (3), Harris; Pens: Cooper def Cheetahs 8 – Tries: Steenkamp; Pens: S. Ebersohn
Put his hand up: Quade Cooper – He’s responding to the pressure from JO’C in the only way he can: by mixing audacious plays with steady and assured game control. He won’t be giving up his gold No. 10 jersey easily.
Did himself no favours: A clean sheet this week; nobody made any real glaring errors.
Bolter watch: Beau Robinson – A man-of-the-match performance from Beau in his contract match. He was strong at the breakdown and put on some massive tackles— the one on Kabamba Floors will have him comparing notes with Jerry Collins.
In other news, Ewen McKenzie has announced a 26-man touring squad to fly to South Africa for matches against the Lions and Stormers.
Forwards: Ben Daley, Saia Fainga’a, Liam Gill, James Hanson, Scott Higginbotham, Greg Holmes, James Horwill (c), Leroy Houston, Beau Robinson, Radike Samo, Jake Schatz, Guy Shepherdson, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Adam Wallace-Harrison.
Backs: Will Chambers, Quade Cooper, Rod Davies, Anthony Fainga’a, Will Genia (vc), Mike Harris, Digby Ioane, Luke Morahan, Ian Prior, Dom Shipperley, Ben Tapuai.