The Reds came into this match knowing it was all for them to do after their brothers from below the Tweed, the Waratahs, had given them the leg up they needed by putting away conference leaders, the Brumbies.
The Reds came out on full attack and it appeared to pay dividends, with Rod Davies winning a foot race to put the ball down for the opening try. Craig Joubert was not sure and sent it upstairs. From there, the Referee team had some comms issues that must have changed the question asked as it appears the TMO, Sean Veldsman, thought he must have been asked to find a few reasons why the try should not be awarded, eventually he managed to be heard by Joubert and the try was not awarded due to a knock on AND obstruction.
Halfback Piet van Zyl replied with try from a charge down and a good run, evading everything the Reds threw at him including one that would not have done Quade’s new reputation for contact any favours, as he slipped off a simple one allowing the Cheetahs Halfback to get easy points on the board.
Seemingly not being able to get things together, a loose pass from the Reds lock Rob Simmons led to a turnover, the Cheetahs wasting no time putting it through the hands before earning a penalty in front. Giving the Cheetahs an easy kick for goal, making the score 8-0 to the home side. This was soon returned by a couple of penalties to the Reds as they took advantage of some suspect mid-field deffence and poor accuracy of the home team at the breakdown, getting some respectability into the score at 8-6.
Piet van Zyl made some great use of some clean set piece ball for his second. He was delivered clean ball from a line out with just a touch of space, but he made a huge run, evading everything the Reds put in front of him (though, it wasn’t much really, very poor from the Reds) to touch down for his second. Watts did not miss the conversion this time.
All in all, with over 60 percent of the territory and two thirds of possession 30 minutes into the half the Reds did not do nearly enough with the game and lacked accuracy. The Cheetahs on the other hand looked dangerous every time they got the ball, taking an 18-6 lead into the break.
The halftime talk from Link appeared to do nothing to turn things around, with an early penalty giving the home team an early 3 points.
The Reds hit back with another disallowed try, though this time it would have been hard to give with Genia looking short of the line. From the Scrum though, some good ball movement and a little magic from Cooper saw Luke Morahan go over for another, this time the Veldsman called the pass forward. Though it appeared to drift forward with the momentum, it was clearly passed backwards. Another let off for the home team.
The Reds continued to chance their arm and attack hard. The Cheetahs were up to it at every point though, seeming to close down the space and any attack made by the visitors, all the while adding penalties and taking the match, and the top of the Aussie conference, further out of the reach of the Reds.
Of course this wasn’t all the Refereeing teams doing, the Reds were their own worst enemy. A complete lack of accuracy from the whole team allowing the Cheetahs to do their thing.
The TMO had one last trick up his sleeve and he was called on after Ben Lucas had put the ball down to check for a forward pass. Upon reviewing the tape I thought it was the clearest non-try of them all, looking like Ed O’donoghue got a hand to it and knocked it on, but I was wrong and the try was awarded. Quade Cooper added the extras from the sideline but with only 2 minutes to go the game was out of reach. The score then, and at full time, was 27 – 13 to the Cheetahs.
To put it mildly, there were some shocking refereeing decisions in this match that had they gone the other way things could have been very different. That’s a tough call to make though, as the Reds were very bad. To put it into perspective, according to Ruckin Good Stats, the Reds made 12 forays into the opposition 22 and only once came away with points so it was clear that even without the TMO’s help they lacked the accuracy required to convert the points. The Cheetahs on the other hand entered the 22 only 4 times but came away with points on three of those occasions.
The Reds will want to move on from that performance quickly.
The Game Changer
Unfortunately, it seemed to be the non-awarding of the first try that changed this game. The Reds appeared unable to get their heads together after that.
The G&GR MOTM
Hopefully Robbie Deans was asleep for this one, because no one was doing their reputations much good in this match. Liam Gill made some good steals and played with plenty of poise, which is good news if George Smith’s knee doens’t pull up so well
Score & Scorers
Home Team: Cheetahs 27
Tries: van Zyl (2)
Conversions: Watts 1/2
Penalties: Watts 5/5
Away Team: Reds 13
Conversions: Cooper 1/1
Penalties: Cooper 2/2