The Waratahs wrapped up second spot on the combined log with a 31-5 win against the Reds in Sydney on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The result justifies Stormers coach Allister Coetzee's decision to select a second-string side for their last league match at Kings Park, as it will have no influence on the final standings. The Cape franchise will finish third and host a play-off qualifier against the sixth-placed Brumbies next weekend.
The first half of this 300th meeting between the Waratahs and Reds was painful to watch, with both teams making a plethora of errors.
The second half was much better, with a yellow card for the Reds proving decisive as the Waratahs scored two tries against 14 men. They would get another two later on to take the full five log points from this fixture.
Both sides missed scoring opportunities early on in the match, with Quade Cooper's penalty attempt going wide, and a forward pass costing the Waratahs after they'd put a goalable penalty into touch and won the lineout.
Bernard Foley eventually opened the scoring with a penalty in the 18th minute, and while the Reds dominated the rest of the half as far as possession and territory was concerned, they had nothing to show for it.
The visitors suffered a setback when James O'Connor limped off the field on the half-hour mark, and they were reduced to 14 men 10 minutes into the second half when Adam Thomson was yellow-carded for a professional foul close to his tryline.
The Waratahs took advantage of the situation soon after when Foley's inside pass put David Dennis over for a converted try. A strong run from Israel Folau then resulted in another for Jacques Potgieter and suddenly it was a 17-point ball game.
Being restored to 15 men didn't prevent the Reds from conceding another two tries, with Brendan McKibbin diving over following a break from Foley, and Dean Mumm barging over from close range to get the bonus point.
Cooper scored a late try, but it was scant consolation for the Reds, who suffered a franchise record 12th defeat of the season.
The Waratahs will be pleased with the result but disappointed with their overall performance. They will need to up their game for the Sydney semi-final in two weeks time or their run as champions will come to an end.
Waratahs – Tries: David Dennis, Jacques Potgieter, Brendan McKibbin, Dean Mumm. Conversions: Bernard Foley (4). Penalty: Foley.
Reds – Try: Quade Cooper.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Matt Carraro, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 David Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Stephen Hoiles, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Jonno Lance.
Reds – 15 James O’Connor, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Hendrik Tui, 21 Beau Robinson, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Ben Tapuai.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images