Quade Cooper returned from injury with an impressive display to spearhead the Queensland Reds to a stunning 32-10 triumph over the Western Force in an Asteron Life Super Rugby clash played in Perth tonight.
The talented flyhalf tallied 22 points, including two tries, to inspire Queensland to a comprehensive four tries to one victory. The other tryscorer for the Reds was another injury returnee, winger Lachie Turner, who also crossed for a double. The Force’s one try was scored by fullback Dane Haylett-Petty.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said he was pleased to see his team maintain a strong performance for 80 minutes.
“It was a very good performance. We managed to keep them under pressure in all facets of the game because everyone in the team made a strong contribution,” Graham said.
“Our set piece was again at the level we expect. The scrum was strong and our lineout was dominant. It provided some excellent front-foot opportunities to the backline. Because of this we dominated the advantage line and that ultimately allowed us to control the scoreboard.
“I was happy with our defence also. We were physical and as a consequence were able to control the tempo of the game.
“We copped a few bumps and bruises but it would be nice to get through unscathed for another week. Continuity has been extremely rare this season but there is another two games and there is a strong resolve to finish the season well.”
The Reds were immediately under pressure and went behind on 10 minutes when they were penalised for offside in front of the posts and Sias Ebersohn stepped up to put the home team in front 3-0.
James O’Connor hit back almost immediately with a searing break but he was pulled down just short of the line.
The Reds however were awarded a penalty and played on quickly. The ball found its way to try-scoring machine Samu Kerevi who burrowed his way over in the left hand corner.
But after considerable deliberation the try was chalked off by the TMO due to an illegal clean out in the build up.
The Reds effort was rewarded just a few minutes later.
It started on 15 minutes when Ben McCalman was penalised for taking out a defender and Cooper set up a lineout in the Force 22.
The Reds won another penalty and again played on quickly with Will Genia feeding danger man Kerevi who pulled in a number of defenders before getting an offload away to Cooper to score in the corner.
Cooper then added the extras with a conversion from the left touchline to make it 7-3 on 17 minutes.
The Reds flyhalf then extended the lead to 10-3 with a 40-metre penalty on 29 minutes and it was all Cooper five minutes later as a trademark moment of magic set up Turner for the Reds second try.
From a scum five metres out from the Force line, Cooper took the ball on the short side before a no-look flick pass to Turner on the outside put the winger over in the corner.
He then knocked over his second touchline conversion to put the Reds out to 17-3.
A Haylett-Petty try converted by Ebersohn brought the score back to 17-10 at half time before Cooper and Turner combined again just six minutes in to the second half for the Reds’ third try.
It began again with Cooper, who lofted a superb cut-out pass to a charging Jake Schatz on the right, who was pulled down just short of the line.
The ball was then swiftly swung back out to the left, with Cooper handling again a number of times before Chris Feauai-Sautia drew the last tackler and found Turner on his outside to go over in the left corner.
This time Cooper could not make it three sideline conversions in a row.
The Reds continued to pour on the pressure with another Cooper penalty on 55 minutes making it 25-10.
It was then Genia’s turn to spark some magic on 62 minutes with the scrumhalf slicing through the Force defence from a scrum before finding Cooper on his right shoulder, who strolled over the line untouched.
Cooper’s conversion took the score to 32-10.
The Force tried hard to reduce the deficit in the final 10 minutes but committed defence from the Reds held them at bay.
The Reds now return to Brisbane where they take on the Chiefs in a special Indigenous Round match on Saturday 6 June.
Graham said he expected a couple of players to return from injury next week.
“Saia (Fainga’a) made his return for GPS today and Hendrik (Tui) played his second match with Norths following a long stint on the sidelines,” he said.
“It will be good to have them and the other players we left in Brisbane all available for selection next weekend against the Chiefs at Suncorp.”
Next week’s home game is the Reds’ final for the year and the last time playing at Suncorp Stadium in a Reds jersey for James Horwill and Will Genia.
QUEENSLAND REDS 32 (Quade Cooper 2, Lachie Turner 2 tries; Cooper 2 penalties, 3 conversions) defeated WESTERN FORCE 10 (Dane Haylett-Petty try; Sias Ebersohn penalty, conversion) at nib Stadium, Perth. (HALF TIME: Reds 17 Force 10) (Referee: Matt O’Brien [AUS])