Games of rugby played in extreme conditions are always rubbish, be it rain, wind, cold or in today’s case, heat. A 36 degree day in Brisbane certainly qualified as being extreme conditions.
At times the game seemed to be just one big knock-on, punctuated with kicks and stoppages in play, the Reds tried to play sexy rugby but it just wasn’t to be.
From the kick-off the over-heating Cheetahs looked as if they were playing for the final whistle. The first half was owned by the Reds who played their usual up-tempo fast break rugby, indeed, the first half stats revealed the Reds had over 70% of possession.
What the Reds did with that possession was an abomination. The Reds, who are serial ‘try bombers’, today found a way to bomb a try that even the most inventive rugby supporter couldn’t predict – a Quade Cooper shoulder charge. Sounds funny, and it was. Indeed most of the game resembled a comedy routine, such was the lack of skill and execution both teams displayed.
The Cooper shoulder charge not only denied the Reds the chance to score a vital four try bonus point, it also denied Madness McMeniman a try on his return to rugby after an early season false start. Madness should have run over and given Cooper a real shoulder charge, not only as an act of revenge, but also to show him how to deliver one properly.
There were some bright spots for the Reds – the return to form of Berrick Barnes and Peter Hynes, Digby Ioane’s continuing education at no.13 and a forward pack that totally played their opponents out of the contest. Mungo McLinden was also rewarded with a try after some fairly solid performances in recent weeks.
The best for Reds again, was undoubtedly Quade Cooper (apart from the afore mentioned ‘wet lettuce’ shoulder charge), who heaped pressure on the Cheetahs with his pin-point kicking game and dangerous ball running, if only he would stop those silly Riverdance impressions he’s prone to.
The on-going confusion about who is the best half-back for the Reds remains unsolved with Ben Lucas having a solid but, unspectacular game, but once again his goal-kicking radar was scrambled. Neither he nor Will Genia seems to be able to have a sustained impact on a match. I wonder if Phil Mooney was watching goal-kicking half-back Brendan McKibbin in the Reds 2nd XV game before the main match? I was, and he looks pretty good.
In all, a passable, if not erratic showing by the Reds under trying conditions – they look as if they have the game that may well provide the first real stern test for the safety first Tahs on Friday. Can’t wait.