Quade Cooper kicked the game-winning conversion as the Reds repeated their 2011 heroics and stunned the 2000 Crusaders 22-20 in Game 6 of the Greatest Super Rugby Team tournament.
SA Rugby magazine readers dived into Game 6 of the 32-team knockout tournament, with the home side claiming a narrow victory after 35% of voters backed them to win by between one and five points in Brisbane.
Cooper, an instrumental part of the Reds’ only Super Rugby win in 2011, used all his experience and held his nerve to kick the winning conversion.
This result eliminates the 2000 Crusaders from the tournament while the 2011 Reds advance to the round of 16, where they will face the 2018 Crusaders.
In an end-to-end encounter, the vibrant Reds fearlessly matched their opponents with their keep-ball-alive approach. While the home side struggled up front, they were electric on the counter-attack, Will Genia and Cooper pulling the strings brilliantly.
The Crusaders were the quickest out the blocks, though, and took a 14-0 lead as hooker Mark Hammett scored from a driving maul, before Reuben Thorne charged across the line from close range.
However, the Reds fought back and a try from Genia, sniping blind from a right-scrum to score just before the break, gave them hope. Cooper and Mehrtens traded penalties early in the second half, with the All Blacks flyhalf kicking a second three-pointer to put his side 20-10 up with 25 minutes to go.
But the Crusaders didn’t score again as the Reds roared back with wing Digby Ioane finishing off a lineout sequence sparked by No 8 Radike Samo making a midfield break. Cooper failed with the conversion, but that set things up for a nervous finish to the match.
With a couple of minutes left on the clock, Genia found Ben Tapuai with an excellent bullet pass, putting the centre through the defensive line, before following up to receive the offload and score in the corner.
That left Cooper with a difficult attempt, but the Wallaby held his nerve to slot the game-winning conversion, consigning the 2000 Crusaders to an early exit from the tournament.
2011 Reds – Tries: Will Genia (2), Digby Ioane. Conversions: Quade Cooper (2). Penalty: Cooper.
2000 Crusaders – Tries: Mark Hammett, Reuben Thorne. Conversions Andrew Mehrtens (2). Penalties: Mehrtens (2).
2011 Reds – 15 Jono Lance, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Anthony Fainga’a, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 Ben Daley.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Guy Sheperdson, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Jake Schatz, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Will Chambers.
Coach: Ewen McKenzie
2000 Crusaders – 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Caleb Ralph, 13 Daryl Gibson, 12 Mark Robinson, 11 Marika Vunibaka, 10 Andrew Mehrtens, 9 Ben Hurst, 8 Ron Cribb, 7 Reuben Thorne, 6 Scott Robertson, 5 Norm Maxwell, 4 Todd Blackadder (c), 3 Greg Feek, 2 Mark Hammett, 1 Greg Somerville.
Coach: Robbie Deans