Reds 30-13 Blues, Super Rugby Semi-Final, July 2
McKenzie heaps praise on Cooper
July 2, 2011
Reds fly-half Quade Cooper exploits some space during his side's victory at the Suncorp Stadium © Getty Images
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie was among those left in awe by fly-half Quade Cooper's contribution to his side's 30-13 victory over the Blues in their Super Rugby semi-final clash in Brisbane.
The Wallabies playmaker set up three of the Reds' four tries, kicked a drop goal and pulled off a try-saving tackle on the Blues' Rene Ranger in an all-action display that showcased his vast array of talents. The crowd-pleasing Cooper did not enjoy as much success with the boot - despite a 10-point haul - but his shortcomings from the kicking tee could not over-shadow his exploits with ball in hand.
"I'm not going to take any coaching credit for that,'' said McKenzie. "That was just pure Quade. I'm still working out how he set up Tapuai's try.
"And it wasn't just his attack," added McKenzie, whose side will face either the Stormers or the Crusaders in next weekend's season finale. "He worked very, very hard in defence. I said it during the week, the bigger the stage the more he likes it.''
Reds skipper James Horwill preferred to praise the efforts of his side as a whole before immediately raising the bar. "That was great reward for all the effort the guys have put in but we're going to need an even greater effort next week," said Horwill.
"I think across the board our defence in that first half was probably what brought us the points; we pressured them and we were probably more disciplined in that first half," he explained. "Some of Quade's freakish ability to set up Ben Tapuai's try was pretty amazing, so to have guys with that sort of special talent in your side is fantastic."
Horwill also praised the way his side have battle back from Super Rugby also-rans just a couple of seasons ago to genuine title contenders this year. "From the effort that we've seen this group put in to come through the darker days ... and see how we've come back to now host a grand final is a massive achievement," he stressed, "but the last hurdle is the hardest one."
Looking ahead to next weekend's final, Horwill added, "The excitement is certainly there and we are going to have to control the emotion of playing at home."
The night belonged to the entire Reds squad although flyer Rod Davies also captured a piece of history by becoming the first player in the franchise's history to score three tries during a Super Rugby match. "Against the Cheetahs I scored two tries early on and I dropped one over the line," he recalled. "The boys let me know it as well, so I knew no one had scored three tries for the Reds."
Blues captain Keven Mealamu saw his side fail to capitalise on large passage of dominance but admitted they had been beaten by the better side. "We put on some good pressure, but we let them off the hook with some mistakes," he said. "We didn't take advantage of our opportunities. We threw everything we had at them, but they came off better than us.''
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