Quade Cooper made a victorious return to Brisbane as the Rebels beat the Reds 32-13 on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Cooper spent 11 seasons at the Reds, but was frozen out by coach Brad Thorn last year, promoting his move to Melbourne.
He and former Reds halfback partner Will Genia were hugely influential on Saturday as the Rebels snapped a two-match losing streak to go back to the top of the Australian conference.
The first half of this match was a largely forgettable affair.
Cooper and Bryce Hegarty exchanged early penalty goals, but it was the Rebels who dominated possession and territory.
The visitors came close to scoring in the 15th minute after a sustained attack finished with Cooper losing the ball in contact just short of the tryline. The flyhalf did add another three points to his team’s tally soon after, but that was cancelled out by a penalty goal from Tate McDermott.
The Rebels finally got reward for their dominance, two minutes before the break. With the referee playing advantage, Cooper kicked into the right-hand corner, with Jack Maddocks leaping up to win the aerial battle against a retreating Hamish Stewart and score the first try.
#SuperRugby – HALFTIME:
Reds 6-11 Rebels
Quade Cooper and Jack Maddocks combined for the only try of the half and the Rebels lead at the break.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) March 30, 2019
The Rebels then struck two big blows early in the second half to take complete control of the game. First, Anaru Rangi went over from a lineout driving maul, and then Cooper kicked a loose ball ahead and Maddocks chased it down. Cooper slotted both conversions to make it 25-6.
The Reds thought they had hit back at the end of the third quarter when, after an 11-phase attack, Brandon Paenga-Amosa crashed over from close range. However, TV replays showed McDermott had knocked on earlier, thanks to a hand from Genia.
The Reds did get a try, through a pick-and-drive from Taniela Tupou with six minutes to go. But it was the Rebels who finished with a flourish as Rob Leota went over after 15 phases to secure the bonus point.
Reds – Try: Taniela Tupou. Conversion: Bryce Hegarty. Penalties: Hegarty, Tate McDermott.
Rebels – Tries: Jack Maddocks (2), Anaru Rangi, Rob Leota. Conversions: Quade Cooper (3). Penalties: Cooper (2).
Reds – 15 Hamish Stewart, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Duncan Paia’Aua, 12 Samu Kerevi (c), 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Ruan Smith, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Jack Hardy, 23 Isaac Lucas.
Rebels – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (c), 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Rob Leota, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Ross Haylett-Petty, 21 Richard Hardwick, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 Reece Hodge.