Reds storm into Super finals
Sat, 14 Jul 2012 11:12p.m.
The Queensland Reds have stolen a Super Rugby finals berth out of the hands of the Brumbies but may be without Quade Cooper after a dramatic 32-16 victory over NSW.
Star playmaker Cooper is in doubt for the play-offs after he was cited and sin-binned for a second-half high tackle which forced a dazed Berrick Barnes off Suncorp Stadium.
In what had been mission improbable on the last day of the regular season, the Reds scored their first bonus-point victory over the Waratahs since 2003 to storm to the top of the Australian conference.
The Brumbies only needed to beat the lowly Blues, or lose by less than seven, to guarantee a Canberra final next weekend but their earlier 30-16 upset loss means Jake White's men face a nervous wait with two South African matches to determine their fate.
Now Queensland will host the sixth-placed team at Suncorp Stadium, tipped to be next Saturday night, chasing a seventh straight win.
The defending champions boast the best momentum in the competition and legitimate hopes of back-to-back titles if Cooper is cleared for action.
The Reds were far superior to their arch-rivals and had an Australian season-high crowd of 41,533 in raptures when winger Dom Shipperley scored their fourth try in the 51st minute for a 24-11 lead.
While Queensland celebrated the Waratahs hung their heads as it was the third five-pointer they gifted the Reds, with Drew Mitchell spilling a poor Barnes pass.
The NSW lineout also disintegrated at key moments, the worst when prop James Slipper latched on to an overthrow just after halftime to snuff out a Waratahs fightback and ensure an eighth straight loss.
The ingredients all came together for Queensland after the Blues upset the Brumbies in Canberra and forecast rain stayed away in Brisbane.
They pushed the play from the outset and had the Waratahs on the back foot within 90 seconds with Digby Ioane breaking the line and then Cooper cross-kicking effectively for Shipperley.
From the ensuing lineout, Liam Gill pounced on a poor throw and man-of-the-match Will Genia threw a perfect pass for Scott Higginbotham to score in the corner.
Taking a series of quick taps, a host of pick-and-drives set it up for Gill to cross for the second try in the 25th minute after NSW prop Paddy Ryan was yellow-carded.
Despite being a man down, the Waratahs grabbed the momentum going into the break after winger Mitchell scored in his 100th Super Rugby match from a Bernard Foley grubber.
When Adam Ashley-Cooper followed up with a 40m field goal it was 12-11 but the Waratahs were again their own worst enemies.
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