The Reds continued their dominance of New Zealand teams as they held out for a close 12-11 win over the Blues in their Vodacom Super Rugby clash in Brisbane on Friday.
A penalty from Quade Cooper five minutes from the end was the only scoring moment in the second half, and enough to give the home side a win in the war of attrition where neither side could land a knockout blow.
Cooper scored all the Reds points – all from penalties – as the home side learnt their lesson from the draw against the Brumbies a week back, and finally took their scoring opportunities.
The win means the Reds have a clean sweep over New Zealand teams this season – the draw prevents them from playing the Crusaders – but they have beaten the Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes in round robin play before Friday’s victory and with the win strengthened their bid for the Australian conference title.
It was an arm-wrestle in the end, and one that the Blues will kick themselves for losing, especially as they led for most of the match and dominated the breakdown.
Their attacking play was also better than the Reds', and for large periods it was the Reds' defence that was under pressure, as the Blues put together multiple phases, but couldn’t find much reward.
The Reds, though, have the look of a team that knows how to win when things get tough, and it wasn’t for nothing that they absorbed the pressure and took their points when needed to set up the victory.
Even though both teams were looking to attack in the first half, the scoreboard was only troubled by kicks for the opening half hour, with Cooper shading Chris Noakes with three penalties to two, before the Blues took the lead with the only try of the game.
An excellent take from the restart by Cullum Retallick set up the attacking play, and the Blues made their inroads, stretching the Reds defence until a gap opened up for Jackson Willison to go over and put his side 11-9 up.
The teams went into the break with so much promise of an open second half, but both stern defence and mistakes killed that off in the last 40, with neither side making inroads into the opposition’s goal area.
Cooper missed with a penalty with 20 minutes to go, but made no mistake when he was offered a second chance and booted the ball through to ensure a one point lead with only five minutes left.
The Blues tried to get out of their own half, but some good play by the Reds and mistakes by the Blues stopped any chance of a final comeback to change the scoreline.
Reds - Penalties: Quade Cooper (4).
Blues - Try: Jackson Willison. Penalties: Chris Noakes, Albert Nikoro.