The Queensland Reds have scored a crucial 43-33 Super Rugby win over the Cheetahs at Suncorp Stadium.
Quade Cooper became Queensland’s record point-scorer and the Reds bagged five tries but they still have concerns after a Jekyll-and-Hyde 43-33 win over the Cheetahs on Friday night.
Cooper finished with 18 points to break Elton Flatley’s Super Rugby mark of 629 career points while centre Chris Feauai-Sautia scored a brace of tries at Suncorp Stadium.
It was a crucial victory for the home side, who now set off on a two-match tour of South Africa, but coach Richard Graham won’t be pleased with their performance.
In one of the crazier encounters in 19 Super seasons, both sides were their own worst enemies in the frenetic 76-point affair in front of 27,760 fans.
It was 14-14 after 12 minutes and six tries were scored in the first half as the Reds took a 29-20 lead into the break.
Smashed 32-5 by the Waratahs last week, Queensland’s attack improved but their ill-discipline and decision-making almost undid them against the freewheeling visitors.
The Reds created more chances and should have shut the tiring Cheetahs out at 40-26 up with 10 minutes to play but invited them back in through a flurry of flaky moments.
The Cheetahs’ scrum also dominated while bloodied flanker Liam Gill’s night finished early due to a first-half head clash with Ed Quirk that has him in doubt for next weekend’s match with the Sharks in Durban.
It was Cooper’s grubber kick for Feauai-Sautia’s second try in the 54th minute that seemed to kill off the visitors, but the Cheetahs were helped back with Sarel Pretorius setting up a late Elgar Watts try.
The scene had been set in the opening 90 seconds when Queensland were awarded a penalty try and Cheetahs winger Ryano Benjamin was sin-binned for kicking the ball out of Feauai-Sautia’s hands as he attempted to plant the ball on the goal-line.
But in the time they were down to 14 men the visitors crossed twice, with Willie le Roux charging down another ill-conceived Will Genia box-kick for Francois Venter to score before Cooper threw a wayward spiral pass for Boom Prinsloo to intercept and canter 50m.
Cooper redeemed himself by floating another cut-out over two defenders but this time it hit Mike Harris who skilfully gave it to Rod Davies, who sped down the sideline.
While Cheetahs sharpshooter Johan Goosen kicked two long-range penalty goals, the Reds continued to test the visitors’ defence and bagged two more tries late in the half for a 29-20 lead at the break.
Cooper, who kicked seven from 10 to boast 638 points, was overjoyed to break Flatley’s Super Rugby mark and reconfirmed his commitment to the Reds by saying he’d aim to eclipse Michael Lynagh’s all-time Queensland record of 1166.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be in the history books for Queensland rugby,” he said.
“I’ve spoken about my love and passion for Queensland rugby in the past and, to have my name etched in the history books, I’m very proud of it.
“There were moments tonight where we should have shut (the game) out … but we’re heading down the right path.”
Graham dismissed concussion concerns surrounding Gill and declared the flanker, well replaced by Beau Robinson, would be fit to play the Sharks.
“We go to Africa with two wins out of three and five points tonight so (tonight) is a good result for us,” he said. “The Cheetahs are a slippery side.”
But captain James Horwill admitted the Reds needed to be more clinical to score their first win over the physical Sharks in Durban in a decade.
Cheetahs skipper Adriaan Strauss lamented his team’s poor handling and inability to finish one or two more try-scoring chances, while coach Naka Drotske was upset by “soft defence” just on halftime.
With the siren already sounded, Reds hooker James Hanson cleaned up a speculative, no-look Cooper pass and then beat three defenders in a 20m sprint down the sideline.
Drotske said it was imperative his team (1-3) pick up at least one of their two games in New Zealand to stay alive in the hunt for a second consecutive finals appearance.