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Reds Rebound In Style As Crusaders Drop Standards

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Reds Rebound In Style As Crusaders Drop Standards

NZPA Correspondent

Sydney, Feb 20 NZPA - The Queensland Reds silenced the doubters and raised early questions about the Crusaders' Super 14 rugby title aspirations after ending an 11-match losing streak in style at Suncorp Stadium last night.

Concerns about the Reds' ability to regroup after an agonising loss to interstate rivals New South Wales in round one were allayed by a rousing 41-20 victory spearheaded by erratic playmaker Quade Cooper.

The first five-eighth had his `A' game fully functioning throughout, a 31-point haul enabling him to minimise the influence of Daniel Carter and surpass Elton Flatley as owner of the Reds' highest individual points tally in Super rugby.

Cooper crossed for the opening Reds try and, later, the bonus-point, securing the score five minutes from time to emboss Queensland's first win over the Crusaders since 1999.

He also goaled three conversions -- and five penalties as South African referee Craig Joubert frequently found fault with the Crusaders at the breakdown.

The Crusaders were pinged just six times against the Highlanders last week. They reached that number by halftime -- and already had prop Owen Franks in the bin for illegally slowing a Reds charge at the line in the 24th minute.

A glut of handling errors -- 17 to the Reds' three -- and the concession of 24 turnovers ensured the Crusaders were never able to gain traction.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder lamented his side's ill-discipline at the breakdown.

"At times we over-committed and stayed in the contact a little too long and got penalised for it," he told Fox Sport.

A crippling error count also contributed to "one of those nights" while lineout glitches allowed the Reds to snaffle key possessions.

"They played really well, they were tough at the breakdown and held possession," Blackadder said of the Reds before warning: "We're a better side than that."

The Crusaders briefly hinted at a comeback when Andy Ellis scored by the posts barely a minute after Adam Byrnes had been yellow-carded when the Reds were hard of defence heading into the final quarter.

However, when another promising raid broke down deep in Reds territory, Morgan Turinui set wing Rod Davies free for his Super rugby try.

Cooper converted to make the game safe at 34-13 before he intercepted an Ellis pass and loped over the line to surpass the 26 points Flatley scored against the Stormers in 2003.

Brad Thorn managed a consolation try for the Crusaders on the hooter; the only other positive was they avoided their heaviest Super rugby defeat: Queensland romped to a 52-16 victory at Ballymore in 1996 while the points tallied last night is the first time the Crusaders have conceded more than 40 since the Brumbies won the 2004 final 47-38 in Canberra.

"We just weren't there, it's really disappointing," admitted captain Kieran Read.

"We didn't put anything out on the track."

Reds counterpart James Horwill, devastated after the Reds leaked 18 points in the last 10 minutes to lose 28-30 to the Waratahs last Friday, was delighted despite suffering a serious knee injury.

"There was a lot of talk about whether we'd be able to back up, hopefully we've shut a few people up. The boys really stuck at it for 80 minutes," he said before ruling himself out next weekend's match against the Blues at Ballymore.

New Reds coach Ewen McKenzie -- who copped seven straight losses against the Crusaders, including a Super 12 and 14 final, when coaching the Waratahs -- said the challenge was now to win back-to-back.

The Crusaders, meanwhile, seek atonement when hosting the Sharks in Christchurch.

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