After two draws and a narrow win in their last three matches the Reds made it clear during the build-up to their match with the Sharks that they wanted to recapture some of their attacking flair. The Reds went into the match without James Horwill due to a concussion meaning Will Genia assumed the captaincy.
In preparation for the match I looked at the statistics of both teams in 2013 and there was very, very little to separate them. In recent times the Sharks have had the better of their clashes including the last time they met in the 2012 qualifying final at Suncorp, which the Sharks won to eliminate the Reds from last year’s competition. The Reds possibly went into this match with an advantage due to the massive injury toll the Sharks have suffered this year.
In front of a good crowd of just over 31,000 the Reds started poorly with Quade Cooper putting the kick off out on the full but from that point on the Reds kicked into gear – in the sixth minute a magical pass from Cooper across the face of four defenders put Saia Faingaa into a hole for the first try. In the fifteenth minute the Sharks lost the ball just five metres out from the Reds line – Genia and Cooper moved the ball quickly to Chris Feauai-Sautia who made the initial break before combining with Digby Ioane down the left touch line. Ioane then angled back in field and found Will Genia who spotted Rod Davies in the clear on the right side of the field and rather than risk the long floating pass put in a grubber kick with his left foot which Davies recovered to finish off a 95 metre movement.
The Reds were in again in the 22nd minute through Anthony Faingaa with Cooper again prominent and then Davies got his second for the night after Cooper spotted space in behind the Sharks defence and put a chip kick through. Cooper and Anthony Faingaa were first to get to Keegan Daniel who recovered the ball but then lost possession at the ruck before the ball went wide to Davies who scored the Reds bonus point try.
The Reds went into halftime leading 29-3 and well in control of the match. The Sharks made plenty of errors and poor decisions in the first half which kept presenting the Reds with possession and we heard later from their coach, John Plumtree, that this was the focus of their discussions during the break. The Sharks responded to the message from the coach and controlled their own possession much better in the second half. They also started applying strong pressure on the Reds attack, which lost some of the structure from the first half.
In the 43rd minute the Sharks went in for their first try of the night to Piet Lindeque after a good line break from Lwazi Mvovo. The Sharks then got their driving maul working and caused plenty of headaches for the Reds. In the 66th minute they went in for their second try to Derick Minnie which brought the score back to 29-17.
The Sharks certainly had the better of play throughout the second half – the Reds weren’t as crisp as they’d been in the first half but a lot of that was the result of how much better the Sharks played in the second period. In the 73rd minute Cooper scored the Reds only points of the second half with a penalty goal which killed off any hope the Sharks had of a miracle recovery. The match ended with a comfortable score line for the Reds 32-17.
The performance from the Reds in the first half was outstanding. Genia and coach Ewen McKenzie talked about their plans in the press conference with Link confirming they had worked hard to get their forwards in motion coming around the corner and Genia telling us that the players had decided to ban the pick and drive altogether this week.
The Reds didn’t respond as well as they would have liked to the pressure the Sharks applied in the second half – they’ll need a more complete performance in their next two matches against the Cheetahs and the Stormers on their tour of South Africa. The bonus point win has allowed the Reds to close the Brumbies lead at the top of the competition to just one point – the Reds performance on their tour over the next two weeks will have a major impact on where their season goes from here.
The Game Changer
Rod Davies second try after Anthony Faingaa won a ruck turnover provided the buffer for the Reds that put the match out of reach of the Sharks.
James Slipper got through a mountain of work and Liam Gill was once again outstanding until he went off with a slight cork. Greg Holmes played his 100th match for the Reds and was good again. Genia, Cooper and Ioane were all prominent for the Reds, continuing their recent good form.
The G&GR MOTM
Chris Feauai-Sautia showed why so many people have big wraps on the kid. He was dazzling in attack and strong in defence.
Score & Scorers:
Davies (2), S. Faingaa, A. Faingaa,
Cooper – 3/4
Cooper – 2/2
Lambie – 2/2
Lambie – 1/1
Glen Jackson (New Zealand)