Defending Vodacom Super Rugby champions, the Reds produced a scintillating performance to steal the Australian conference crown from the Brumbies, as they defeated the Waratahs 32-16 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
The shock result earlier in the day when the Blues beat the Brumbies opened the door for the Reds to move into first place in the Aussie conference, provided they won with a four-try bonus point.
And this they did, scoring five tries on a night where they showed just what a force they can still be in this competition.
Their reward, thanks to Sanzar’s conference system, is a home playoff next week against the side that ends sixth, and a chance to defend their crown in the next few weeks.
It was always going to be the case when the Brumbies found themselves wanting against a strong Blues side earlier on, any motivation the Reds needed was provided by the opening they were given, and they took it with glee.
The Brumbies will now have to hope one of the South African sides -- the Sharks or Bulls lose later in the day -- if they are to have any chance of making the playoffs. If both win, they will find themselves outside the top six.
The Reds though, showed they are far from done in this competition, opening the scoring after just three minutes after turning over a Waratahs lineout and a few phases later sending the ball to Scott Higginbotham on the wing to complete their opening score.
Bernard Foley pulled a penalty back and the Waratahs were unlucky not to score when Will Genia’s clearance kick on his own line was charged down by Chris Alcock, who tried to dot down but in the movement had the ball kicked out of his hands by Dom Shipperley.
The momentum was switched again when the Reds were on attack shortly afterwards, and the Waratahs watched as prop Paddy Ryan was dispatched to the sin bin for a repeated team infringements call by referee Steve Walsh.
The Reds immediately took advantage of his absence, and tapped and charged, with Liam Gill getting over after the third time they bashed at the Waratahs defence.
The 'Tahs were keen to make a game of it and hit right back when Foley put through a perfect grubber for Drew Mitchell to pounce on and score.
Adam Ashley-Cooper slotted an ambitious drop goal to bring his side within one at the break, and the Reds led 12-11 with two tries already on the scoresheet.
The second half needed a bigger effort, and it came almost immediately as first James Slipper barged over from close range, and then Shipperley pounced on a dropped ball by Mitchell and showed just how much gas he has in the tank to run in for the bonus point try.
Will Genia provided the cherry on top by seeing a small blindside gap and darting in at the corner for the fifth try, to seal the victory with 20 minutes to go.
Quade Cooper ensured he will see a disciplinary committee after a high-shoulder charge on Berrick Barnes, one that earned him both a yellow and a white card.
In his absence Tom Carter got a consolation try for the Waratahs but any thoughts of a comeback were snuffed out when Mike Harris settled things down with a late penalty.
The Reds now will have a home playoff game, something few would have guessed before the weekend, and on this form will be tough opposition for any side coming to Brisbane.
Reds – Tries: Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill, James Slipper, Dom Shipperley, Will Genia. Conversions: Mike Harris (2). Penalty: Harris.
Waratahs – Tries: Drew Mitchell, Tom Carter. Penalty: Bernard Foley. Drop: Adam Ashley-Cooper.