Reds 30-13 Blues, Super Rugby Semi-Final, July 2
Davies powers Reds past Blues
July 2, 2011
The Reds' Rod Davies is engulfed after scoring one of his tries at the Suncorp Stadium
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The Reds powered into the Super Rugby Final with a thrilling 30-13 victory over the Blues in their semi-final showdown at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
A hat-trick from winger Rod Davies and another try from centre Ben Tapuai propelled the hosts to a deserved victory with fly-half Quade Cooper providing the cutting edge throughout with an outstanding individual display that included a penalty, a drop goal and two conversions. The Reds' reward for booking their first final appearance in the professional era is home advantage in next weekend's season finale where they will play the winner of today's other semi-final between the Stormers and the Crusaders.
The Blues notched a first half try through lock Chris Lowrey having failed to capitalise on their earlier dominance but two long range penalties from centre Luke McAlister after the break were never going to be enough to deny the all-action Reds.
The Blues began strongly in an attempt to silence the bumper home crowd with winger Lachie Munro being crowded out inside the 22 but the Reds also threatened with scrum-half Will Genia sparking a move that saw his side make big gains downfield. The Blues stood firm but the Reds were soon back on the front foot with the pace of Davies exploiting a gap before fullback Jono Lance went close only to be thwarted by a great tackle from winger Joe Rokocoko. The relentless pressure drew a penalty from the Blues but Cooper pulled his opening effort wide of the posts.
The Blues looked equally dangerous with ball in hand with fly-half Stephen Brett finding some space in the Reds' 22 but they failed to exploit the opportunity and Davies picked off a pass from Munro before speeding away downfield for the first try of the game. Cooper rediscovered his kicking form with the conversion to cement his side's lead but the breakaway score did little to curb the Blues' adventure.
Scrum-half Alby Mathewson was soon proving elusive and his initial break deep inside the Reds' half had the hosts stretched. He found able support in his pack but hooker Keven Mealamu was penalised for taking a man out at the ruck as his side closed in on the line. The Reds were also guilty of squandering a chance a few moments later after Cooper and winger Digby Ioane had combined to bring the home crowd to their feet.
Injury robbed the Reds of No.8 Radike Samo before the half hour with a neck injury but they re-bounded from the loss by swiftly earning another penalty at the breakdown. However, Cooper's increasingly alarming lack of consistency with the boot saw another chance slip away.
The Reds continued to shackle the Blues with some exemplary defensive work and heaped woe on their rivals with Cooper igniting the next scoring move. The Reds' playmaker fended off Munro inside his own half before darting down the touchline where another stiff arm held off Mathewson long enough for him to find Tapuai on his inside who then raced away for a try. Cooper was once again wayward with the conversion attempt but the Reds were firmly in control of the contest.
The Blues rallied well only for a knock on to scupper their hopes in the shadow of the Reds' posts and they were soon punished for their shortcomings. Cooper was again the instigator with a breath-taking break from his own 22 and he found support in Scott Higginbotham but the flanker did not have the pace to make the line. The Reds had to settle for a penalty with Cooper taking his side out to a 15-0 lead but there was still time for the Blues to get on the board before the break.
An attacking scrum handed them great field position before Mathewson found Lowrey on a great line and the lock made the most of some slack defending to coast in for a try that was converted by Brett.
The Blues had the first scoring opportunity of the second half after lock Ali Williams was hauled down at a lineout and McAlister landed the long-range penalty with ease to bring his side to within five points. And a big tackle from Ioane on Brett moments later prevented more damage after some quick hands from the Blues had the Reds stretched.
The home side responded in the crowd-pleasing way that has been the foundation of their success all season. A solid lineout provided the platform before Cooper fed Davies out wide with the winger's pace too much for the Blues' over-worked defence. Cooper's off-day from the kicking tee continued as he missed the conversion but McAlister was not so wasteful in landing his second penalty after the Reds were penalised for side entry at the ruck.
The free-thinking Reds were quick to hit back again after an ill-advised chip ahead from Blues fullback Jared Payne gifted possession away. Ioane gleefully scooped up the ball and Genia went close before the ball was worked wide to Davies who sped over in the corner to complete the first hat-trick in the Reds' Super Rugby history. Cooper landed the difficult conversion to extend his side's advantage to 14 points midway through the half.
The Blues kicked successive penalties to the corner as they chased the game but it was some strong running from replacement Rene Ranger that carved the next opening. He shrugged off two tackles before finding centre Benson Stanley on his outside but his pass to Payne went to ground with the try line looming and with it went their hopes of victory.
The Reds also went close to scoring as the game entered the closing stages with replacement Adam Wallace-Harrison spilling the ball in contact as he looked to power over from close range. The Reds' disappointment was short-lived with Cooper slotting a simple drop goal to seal the win after the beaten Blues had coughed up the ball inside their own 22.
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.