Reds' revival has repercussions far beyond win on scoresheet
Genius of Genia ... Reds players celebrate with Will Genia after the halfback scored in a dramatic win against the Chiefs. Photo: Getty Images
The local administrators are happy because the Australian conference can produce a match worth watching. Those pushing for Sunday afternoon football are delighted as it lures a 36,000-plus crowd. The Reds are relieved because they are heading back towards the top. And Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is more relaxed because now he may be able to select a reasonable Test line-up for next month's international against Scotland.
It was win, win, win, win for Australian rugby at Suncorp Stadium yesterday, where the Reds and Chiefs produced a top-shelf encounter, played at extreme pace, involving a multitude of quality tries from either side, and which was also helped by referee Marius Jonker keeping penalties to a minimum.
The Chiefs appeared to have it won after they scored three tries in seven minutes, but the Reds were able to win it by responding with three tries - again in seven minutes. One has a sneaking suspicion that considering the high calibre of each team's play, they will probably be confronting each other again come finals time.
The last laugh … Waterboy Quade Cooper smiles after the Reds' superb victory over the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
With Deans having to rely on numerous Reds for the Scotland international on June 5, as they are one of the teams having the bye the previous weekend, several players put their hands up for Test jerseys.
Reds fullback Luke Morahan was lucky to escape a yellow card when Jonker and his assistant referees could not identify who had made a dangerous tackle on Sonny Bill Williams. He made the most of it in the next few minutes with several try-saving tackles. Those crucial tackles would have been noted by Deans.
Elsewhere, Will Genia, who scored a 60-metre solo try, is gradually showing he is back to his best. Mike Harris was always composed at No.12 and there is no more reliable goalkicker around, while Scott Higginbotham is a peerless No. 8.
Adding to this rise in spirits is that there's also a bit of excitement at the other end of the conference.
In their short history, the Melbourne Rebels have made many blunders. But easily their best decision was letting Danny Cipriani go a few weeks ago.
Wow! What a shock that the Rebels have suddenly showed their true potential after a flawed player who put too much pressure on those around him due to his aversion to tackling and erratic behaviour on and off the field was farewelled. With it came their best win so far, when they stunned the Crusaders on Saturday night.
An enormous transformation has occurred since Kurtley Beale has taken over at No.10. They suddenly look a cohesive team, rather than one that so often appeared to be bickering with each other on the field - not surprising when Cipriani often turned into the invisible man when it all got too hard.
What is most rejuvenating is that with Beale providing the required direction, their halfback Nick Phipps, who has been out of sorts, is again playing to his full potential; Lachlan Mitchell is showing he is a more-than-able inside-centre while the team awaits James O'Connor's return; and their wingers Cooper Vuna and Mark Gerrard are enjoying the benefits of playing outside a pivot who gives them good, fast service.
Cipriani's supporters say he did what he was supposed to by getting the Rebels publicity in an AFL-obsessed city. Whether it was the right type of publicity is debatable.
The second-best Rebels decision was making Gareth Delve captain. He always puts in, has been their most consistent forward this season and the Welshman's enthusiasm for the cause appears genuine. He is supposed to heading elsewhere next season and will be missed in Melbourne.
Now, with the Force in disarray, the Rebels have the chance in Perth next Sunday to rid themselves of Australian rugby's worst province tag.
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