The St.George Queensland Reds treated home fans to a thrilling 43-33 bonus-point victory over the Cheetahs in their first home game of the 2014 Asteron Life Super Rugby season at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane tonight.
The Reds scored five tries through a double to young flyer Chris Feauai-Sautia, singles to Rod Davies and James Hanson and a penalty try. Quade Cooper landed 18 points to become the highest point scorer in Super Rugby history for the Reds.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said he was pleased with the outcome, as his team heads to South Africa with two wins from their opening three games.
“We’re heading on our two-week tour of South Africa with two wins out of our opening three games and a bonus point tonight, so that’s a good result for us,” Graham said.
“We’ll review tonight’s game and see what aspects we need to address. I felt we improved in a number of areas and look forward to our two weeks in South Africa.”
As part of Reds Ladies Round, the home side took the field looking resplendent in their pink-edged jerseys in honour of International Women’s Day, which also carried their Mum’s names on the back in another nice touch.
Two minutes in, the Reds were on the scoreboard, with Rod Davies breaking through the Cheetahs defence before popping the ball up to Feauai-Sautia.
The young centre looked to get over out wide but referee Garratt Williamson ruled that Cheetahs winger Ryno Benjamin had illegally kicked the ball out of his hands as Feauai-Sautia placed it over the line.
Benjamin was shown a yellow card and a penalty try was awarded, denying Feauai-Sautia the five-pointer but making Cooper’s conversion simpler and the Reds were up 7-0 after just two minutes.
But immediately the Cheetahs hit back. Willie Le Roux looked offside as he charged down Will Genia’s kick from the back of a ruck but play was allowed to go on and Le Roux re-gathered and sprinted downfield.
He was pulled down short of the line by desperate Reds defence, but the ball came wide quickly to Francois Venter who went over for the Cheetahs. Johan Goosen landed the conversion and scores were even 7-7 after just four minutes.
On 10 minutes the Cheetahs were in again. A flat ball from Cooper was intercepted by Boom Prinsloo, defending wide due to the absence of Benjamin, and the big flanker bounded away for a try against the run of play. Goosen’s conversion put the Cheetahs up 14-7.
But this time it was the Reds turn to hit back straightaway. Queensland were using Gill at first receiver from set plays to give Cooper, more time and space to work his magic.
The tactic worked superbly again as quick ruck ball saw Gill feed Cooper who looped a long ball to Mike Harris.
The Reds centre timed his pass perfectly to Davies who sprinted away to score in the right corner. Cooper’s conversion cannoned over off the uprights to lock the scores up at 14-14.
The teams traded penalties to go to 17-17, before quick thinking by Genia saw him opt to take a quick tap rather than a simple shot at goal following a Cheetahs infringement. The scrumhalf’s vision was rewarded as the ball was swung wide quickly to Feauai-Sautia who fought his way over in the corner.
Again the referee went to the TMO but this time the young centre could not be denied and the Reds led 22-17. Cooper’s conversion this time from the left touchline just missed to the left.
Goosen added another penalty to bring it back to 22-20 but the action wasn’t over in a breathtaking first half.
The Reds continued to run the ball after the siren and big lock Simmons cut through the Cheetahs defence to give the home team some momentum.
Prop Ben Daley did well to get a pass away in contact to Cooper who popped a speculative pass towards the wing. It proved a master stroke as Hansen re-gathered the ball on the bounce, stepped inside one defender, palmed off another and beat the cover defence to score a brilliant solo try in the corner – and earn Queensland a first half bonus point.
The conversions weren’t getting any easier for the Reds flyhalf but this time Cooper guided his kick over from the left touchline to give the home favourites a 29-20 lead at half time.
The Reds opened the scoring in the second half, stringing 14 phases together before Cooper sent a well weighted grubber kick through for Feauai-Sautia to score again.
For the third time the referee went to the TMO and this time the decision went in favour of the 20-year-old as he was awarded his second try. The Reds led 34-23.
Goosen added a penalty to bring the score back to 34-26 but another break by Simmons, who was having a standout match, saw the Reds win another penalty, which Cooper landed to over take Elton Flatley and become the highest point scorer in Super Rugby for the Reds.
Another penalty to Cooper made it 40-26 but the Cheetahs refused to throw in the towel. Reserve scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius set up a try for reserve flyhalf Elgar Watts to bring it back to 40-33 with 6 minutes remaining.
Cooper added a further three points with a penalty goal in the final play of the game to rob the Cheetahs of a losing bonus point.
Cooper said he was honoured to set a new marker for the Reds in Super Rugby.
“I couldn’t be more excited about being in the history books for something like that for Queensland Rugby,” Cooper said.
“I’ve spoken about my love and passion for Queensland Rugby and to be in the history books as Queensland’s highest points scorer in Super Rugby, I’m very proud of that.”
The Reds now depart for South Africa tomorrow where they face the Sharks in Durban early next Sunday morning, Brisbane time.
Full Time Result
St George Queensland Reds 43 (Chris Feauai-Sautia 2, Rod Davies, penalty try, James Hanson tries; Quade Cooper 4 penalties, 3 conversions) defeated Cheetahs 33 (Francois Venter, Boom Prinsloo, Elgar Watts tries; Johan Goosen 4 penalties, 2 conversions; Watts conversion) at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. (Half time: Reds 29 Cheetahs 20)
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