As the Reds were arriving at Suncorp they heard the news: the Auckland Blues had done them a massive favour, beating the Brumbies and denying them a crucial bonus point. The ramifications for the Reds were that with a bonus point win, they would qualify top of the Aussie conference and earn a home final.
Would the Waratahs let this happen? Could they stop it?
From the kick-off the Reds went all-out on attack, with Higgers scoring a try in the third minute. The Waratahs had a defensive lineout 5 metres out and a loose throw went to Dave Dennis, who couldn’t collect it, the Reds got the ball and came close, then one pass later Higgers had crossed. Mike Harris added the extras.
The Waratahs got the ball from the restart, and earned a penalty shortly after. Bernard Foley put them on the board with some quick points.
The game settled somewhat from there — how could it not? The Reds showed their intent, turning down an easy penalty shot and taking the quick tap instead. That move came to an end shortly after when Saia Faingaa ignored a three-on-two overlap to try out his chip-kick. He shouldn’t have.
A looming Tahs try was foiled by some #shippsanity. The Tahs put the kick through and among the chasers were Chris Alcock and Dom Shipperley. Somehow Shippers got his foot under the ball and prevented the grounding.
From the 22 drop-out that followed, the Reds made their way up to the line and were working it hard when Paddy Ryan was yellow-carded for repeated offside while defending on the line. This made the Tahs’ job that much harder, and at the 24th minute, the Reds got their second try to Liam Gill. Mike Harris made a rare miss with the conversion attempt.
Convinced their move earlier was good, even though foiled, the Waratahs worked it again. Perhaps it was a fact that Drew Mitchell was on the spot, but this time they got the ball down. Grayson Hart missed the conversion.
Then Adam Ashley-Cooper joined illustrious Waratahs from the past such as Matt Dunning by kicking a drop-goal in the last game of the season. It was a cracking kick though, just making it over the bar from 45 metres out (probably 50 on the angle). This made it a one-point ball game at 35 minutes at 12-11 to the Reds. The scored stayed the same heading into oranges.
The big question as the second half got under way was would the Reds put away the hooker-chip-kicking conservative play or throw caution to the wind and gun for the bonus point?
There was a series of three lineouts on the 5-metre line at the Waratahs’ end. We thought the lineout was a bit dodgy when the Reds tried a trademark throw to the front, resulting in Saia being taken over the line. It was clearly a plan though as the Waratahs missed the jump on their lineout and the ball was collected by James Slipper, who enjoyed the taste of his pie last week and helped himself to seconds. Harris again missed the conversion.
A loose pass from the Waratahs was put down and the Reds pounced. As he did in round 1, Dom Shipperley broke the Waratahs and Brumbies supporters hearts by scoring the fourth try and the bonus point. Mike Harris added the extras. It was now all about ensuring the win for the Reds.
Will Genia then scored the cheekiest halfback’s try in a long time. Picking the ball up from behind the scrum he darted over and got through two defenders to put the ball down in the corner. The 29-11 score line was making it beyond doubt they would be hosting a final next week.
Quade Cooper then made a bold move to reclaim his Wallaby jersey with a tackle on his opposite number, Berrick Barnes. The tackle looked tame enough, seeming to start at the shoulder and come up to the head of Barnes. Either way there was a stink, and when the dust had settled, Steve Walsh went to the pocket and Quade got a yellow and a white card. So even though a home final was booked the Reds may be without Quade.
The Waratahs used their time with an extra man to pressure the Reds’ line. Though camped down there for nearly the whole time Quade was in the bin they didn’t look like scoring, until a flying Tom Carter on the end of a three-on-two overlap got a try. Brendan McKibbin missed the conversion, leaving the score at 29-16 to the Reds with six minutes to go.
The Reds got Cooper back, and with a full 15 they were not going to let the Waratahs score last. Adam Wallace-Harrison, who had had a blinder of a match tonight (might have something to do with his appearance on the Podslam this week), went over. He was held up though, so was denied the points. The Reds had an advantage call up their sleeve and Mike Harris kicked their first penalty, making it 32-16.
The Reds wound the clock down and secured the home final. Oh yeah, and the Templeton Cup.
The biggest concern now is how the judiciary will treat Quade. Will the Reds have a full squad for their Qualifying Final?
See you all next week…
Season high (Australia) Crowd : 41 533
Official Man Of The Match: Will Genia
Reds (Try: Higginbotham, Gill, Slipper, Shipperley, Genia Con: Harris 2/5 Pen: Harris 1/1) Waratahs (Try: Mitchell, Carter Con: Hart 0/1, McKibbin 0/1 Pen: Hart 1/1 Drop: Ashley-Cooper 1/1)