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Weary Reds entertain right down to last second

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    Hard-nosed Reds coach Ewen McKenzie could only shake his head and smile weakly after watching Queensland give up a 21-point lead and then get out of jail in a final-round Super 14 match to remember at Suncorp Stadium.

    Fittingly, battle-scarred Queensland finished their season of excitement on a high with a 38-36 victory over the Highlanders, but a second-half capitulation ensured they did it the hard way.

    Up 24-3 and in command at halftime, the Reds twice trailed in the last 15 minutes before replacement backrower Tasi Luafutu scored two tries to ensure they finished with an 8-5 record and fifth place on the table.

    But their best result since 2002 was only achieved after stand-out Highlanders fullback Israel Dagg missed a last-gasp 55m penalty attempt after the fulltime hooter had sounded.

    While Reds five-eighth Quade Cooper put on a first-half show of circus tricks to score one try and set up three others, it was his angled conversion of Luafutu’s 78th-minute try which gave his side their two-point advantage.

    “We’re in the entertainment business,” McKenzie dryly deadpanned after the 11-try spectacle which had 26,700 Brisbane fans on the edge of their seats.

    “It certainly wasn’t the halftime talk and letting them go back out there and score four tries (in 23 minutes).

    “We played them back into the game through our errors – we made it easy for them.

    “But give (the Highlanders) some credit, they went out there and attacked very well.”

    Just like their costly penultimate-round loss to the Hurricanes, the leg-weary Reds gave up a huge first-half lead with a man in the sin-bin and injuries taking their toll.

    Missing nine first-choice players, Queensland’s thin stocks were drained further with flanker Scott Higginbotham (ankle) and fullback Ben Lucas (knee) succumbing to first-half injuries.

    Needing a 100-point win to be any chance of making the semi-finals, the Reds had showed their intent from kickoff with Cooper, Peter Hynes and Will Chambers combining to put Digby Ioane over after just 38 seconds.

    Cooper’s show also included a cut-out pass for lock Radike Samo to score and an audacious, unnecessary flick pass for Hynes to cross for a 17-3 lead in the 19th minute.

    When the Reds were down 29-24 late in the game, it was the mercurial 11-Test Wallabies back who also popped up beside Hynes to put Luafutu over.

    Highlanders hooker Jason Rutledge stole the lead back but Luafutu’s second try from a driving maul with a minute left levelled the scores at 36-all.

    Retiring Reds veteran Sean Hardman produced a strong 80-minute display in his 148th and last match and was a part of the maul that set up the win.

    Skipper Will Genia, playing on one leg, defied a medial ligament tear to save the Reds several times in defence and also expertly steer them around the park.

    The home side’s first-half momentum disappeared with the sin-binning of veteran lock Van Humphries after he sparked an all-in brawl before half-time by reacting to a facial from Highlanders halfback Jimmy Cowan.

    The signs didn’t look good after the restart with Dagg swivelling out of a lazy Ioane tackle and chipping over the top of Cooper to score inside 60 seconds.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (24)

    • May 16th 2010 @ 6:48am
      Who Needs Melon said | May 16th 2010 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      Jeez I hope Genia is ok for the internationals. Burgess has been good the last couple of games but Genia is still first by a mile.

      Re the Reds – you just get the feeling the whole squad has had the most fun playing rugby this season. The shots of Leroy Houston going nuts on the sideline say it all. Even McKenzie seems to have had the most fun in his coaching career under the dour exterior.

      If you find a job you love, stick with it!

      • May 16th 2010 @ 10:28am
        Deez said | May 16th 2010 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Completely agree – has been a great year for both the players and the spectators, despite missing out on the finals. Here’s hoping that they can keep enough of the team together for next year to have a repeat.

    • May 16th 2010 @ 7:18am
      sheek said | May 16th 2010 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      The Reds have been a breath of fresh air this year – more power to them for the future!

      They must be ruing that first round last minute loss to the Waratahs. At that early stage of the season they didn’t know how good they would become.

      The Tahs themselves can be thankful they’re in the semis. So no whingeing about giving up a home semi because the Bulls got rolled due to resting so many key players against the Stormers. But they have found good form at the right end of the season.

      So both semis are in SA. I don’t understand why home ground advantage is so critical (all rugby pitches are supposedly similar) but this being the case the Stormers will beat the Waratahs, & the Bulls will beat the Crusaders. The travel alone will affect the Crusaders especially, & the Tahs.

      While I supported the Bulls decision to do what they please, it’s dangerous to give up momentum in sport. Resting so many players might not necessarily work in their favour. I’m tipping the Stormers to win the S14 final.

      Which means I’ve probably just Jonah-ed them…..

      • May 16th 2010 @ 6:53pm
        nicksa said | May 16th 2010 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

        i cant see the bulls losing in the finals, they are a team who know how to win…

        • May 16th 2010 @ 7:02pm
          Tara said | May 16th 2010 @ 7:02pm | ! Report

          As do the Crusaders hence why they have 7 titles to their name

    • May 16th 2010 @ 7:22am
      mungo said | May 16th 2010 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      If the magistrate/judge hearing the Cooper case had any brains he would find him guilty and sentance him to 3 years with the reds, thanks fellas for the entertainment this year, next year looks ominus.

    • May 16th 2010 @ 7:28am
      bruski said | May 16th 2010 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      The lines these guys run are un-believable, and all at break-neck speed. Awesome game to watch and a great end to an extra-ordinary season.

      Genia’s leg would not be that bad or he would have went off – I think anyway.

    • May 16th 2010 @ 8:20am
      Rockin Rod said | May 16th 2010 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      So will Hynes and Quade yell us where they are going now ?????

    • May 16th 2010 @ 9:42am
      James D said | May 16th 2010 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Wow.. what a bloody fantastic game of rugby.

      Big tackles – great skills – bit of biff (Van Humphries trying to roll some *****).

      Another reminder of why rugby is the greatest game (football code) on the planet.

      When rugby is played in the right spirit as it has been so often this year it just makes you happy to watch it and this all bodes well for the wallabies with resurgence of the Force (at the end of the year) and Reds as well as decent showing from the Brumbies and another good year from the tahs (who are looking heir most potent in attack in years – no leaguies around to screw things up).

      • May 16th 2010 @ 11:06am
        titus said | May 16th 2010 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        “Another reminder of why rugby is the greatest game (football code) on the planet”
        – Providing both teams have the right attitude, it would certainly be up there.

        Well done Reds this year. They have been consistently the most entertaining and rewarding team to watch. May it long continue.

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