Reds deny Cheetahs at the death
The Reds denied the Cheetahs in the most cruel fashion, a controversial penalty giving the home team a 43-33 win in their Super Rugby encounter in Brisbane on Friday.
It will stand in the record books as a record score in a home game for the Reds – the 76 points in an eight-try thriller.
However, there was a very sour note to the finish of the game.
The never-say-die Cheetahs kept on working their way back into the game, and at 33-40 in the final minute, there was the possibility of a 90-metre try and a famous draw.
However, New Zealand referee Garratt Williamson controversially awarded a scrum penalty to the Reds, after the home team had collapsed the scrum.
Quade Cooper slotted the three points to deny the visitors even the consolation of a losing bonus point.
In the immediate aftermath of the game respected referee Jonathan Kaplan expressed his disappointment with the Kiwi official's decision.
"Reds hooker on the deck prior to penalty," Kaplan said on his twitter account.
"First infringement not picked up. Three points against Cheetahs. Denies them bonus point."
It detracted from what was otherwise a game full of entertainment, action and drama.
Quade Cooper became the Reds' record point-scorer – finishing with 18 points to break Elton Flatley's Super Rugby mark of 629 career points.
It was a crucial victory for the home side, who now set off on a two-match tour of South Africa.
In one of the crazier encounters in 19 Super seasons, both sides were their own worst enemies in the frenetic 76-point affair in front of 27,760 fans.
It was 14-14 after 12 minutes and six tries were scored in the first half, as the Reds took a 29-20 lead into the break.
Smashed 32-5 by the Waratahs last week, Queensland's attack improved but their ill-discipline and decision-making almost undid them against the freewheeling visitors.
The Reds created more chances and should have shut the tiring Cheetahs out at 40-26 up with 10 minutes to play, but invited them back in through a flurry of flaky moments.
The Cheetahs' scrum also dominated, while bloodied flank Liam Gill's match finished early due to a first-half head clash with Ed Quirk that has him in doubt for next weekend's match with the Sharks in Durban.
It was Cooper's grubber kick for Feauai-Sautia's second try in the 54th minute that seemed to kill off the visitors, but the Cheetahs were helped back with Sarel Pretorius setting up a late Elgar Watts try.
The scene had been set in the opening 90 seconds when the Reds were awarded a penalty try and Cheetahs wing Ryno Benjamin was sin-binned for kicking the ball out of Feauai-Sautia's hands as he attempted to plant the ball on the goal-line.
But in the time they were down to 14 men the visitors crossed twice, with Willie le Roux charging down another ill-conceived Will Genia box-kick for Francois Venter to score, before Cooper threw a wayward spiral pass for Johannes Prinsloo to intercept and canter 50 metres.
Cooper redeemed himself by floating another cut-out over two defenders, but this time it hit Mike Harris who skillfully gave it to Rod Davies, who sped down the sideline.
While Cheetahs sharpshooter Johan Goosen kicked two long-range penalty goals, the Reds continued to test the visitors' defence and bagged two more tries late in the half for a 29-20 lead at the break.
Man of the match: Willie le Roux had his moments, although he may have overplayed the ill-conceived chip-kicks, Adriaan Strauss showed more energy and Philip van der Walt was all over the park. Rod Davies was always a threat with ball in hand and Quade Cooper was again a mixed bag with plenty of entertainment value. However, out award goes to Reds lock Rob Simmons, who was a monster on defence – the highest tackle count for his team – and did the hard yards in the tight exchanges as well as the basics, winning all his line-outs.
For the Reds:
Tries: Penalty try, Davies, Feauai-Sautia 2, Hanson
Cons: Cooper 3
Pens: Cooper 4
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Venter, Prinsloo, Watts
Cons: Goosen 2, Watts
Pens: Goosen 4
Yellow card: Ryno Benjamin (Cheetahs, 2 – foul play, kicking the ball out of a player's hand)
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Ben Tapuai.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Nicolaas van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Rynhardt Landman, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Cornal Hendricks.
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Matt O'Brien (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)