RYAN VREDE watched the Reds produce their best performance of the season in beating the Rebels 53-3 in Brisbane.
It was a complete showing, with the Reds proving that they are as adept at ripping teams to ribbons through their back division, as they are at mixing it powerfully in the tight through phases and kicking accurately when required to. The pack worked relentlessly to give the fly boys a platform, and the halfback pair of Will Genia and Quade Cooper, the latter exhibiting a complete skill set for a flyhalf, then orchestrated affairs masterfully.
Their defence must also be noted, with openside flank Beau Robinson a standout at the breakdown (although the effort of the collective was massive), ensuring that his side’s defensive task was significantly easier. It was the type of performance that kept them in the hunt for a semi-final place until late into the 2010 tournament, and one that must be replicated, especially away from the comfort of the Suncorp Stadium, if they hope to be in the mix at the business end this year.
The Rebels were woeful, and were out of the game at 25-3 by half-time. They had scoring opportunities, the best of those falling to All Blacks prop Greg Somerville who dropped the ball cold with the tryline beckoning. That score, which would undoubtedly have been converted, would have it 15-10 and got the Rebels back into the contest. Instead they conceded shortly thereafter and chased shadows from thereon in.
Cooper crafted the first try by regathering his own high kick and swinging a 20m pass out to Leroy Houston, who danced through a couple of tackles and offloaded to Anthony Faingaa. Cooper missed the conversion but dropped a penalty before Adam Wallace-Harrison extended the lead when he burrowed through a mound of bodies to touch down. Cooper added the extras.
The Rebels then produced their only period of sustained pressure, but Somerville’s gaff was followed by three turnovers in the red zone. It was the type of attacking imprecision that has been a marked feature of their campaign, and this needs to change if they hope to compete with the tournament’s better sides.
Furthermore, their defence is a point of deep concern. They were unable to stem the Reds’ attacking flow because of their weak collision fight, and routinely fell off crucial hits, the worst of which allowed Houston to corkscrew out of three tackles, free his hands and dish off to Scott Higginbotham to score just before half-time.
To compound their woe, the Rebels’ set pieces was consistently under pressure, and an overcooked lineout feed on their 5m line gifted the Reds their bonus-point try 10 minutes after the restart. Replacement centre Mike Harris then stuck twice in two minutes in the final quarter, and Luke Morahan ended the rout late in the piece.