Cooper riding high
But star playmaker says poor finishing could hurt the Reds in South Africa
QUEENSLAND have scored 13 tries in two romps heading into their South African t o u r , b u t a u d a c i o u s playmaker Quade Cooper has warned sloppy finishing could bite the Reds as their Super Rugby campaign hots up.
Queensland cemented their place on top of the Australian conference by blitzing the Cheetahs 41-8 for a record seventh straight win at home on Saturday where t hey crossed for six five-pointers but also botched almost as many tries.
Five-eighth Cooper created the two most eye-catching wasted opportunities which dangerous wingers Digby Ioane and Rod Davies failed to finish.
Davies merely needed to catch a simple last pass from Cooper to become the first Reds player in 16 years of Super Rugby to notch a hattrick but spilt it cold 25m out.
‘‘ I think he was thinking about his try celebrations,’’ Cooper half-quipped.
‘‘ I’ve been giving it to him, I said to him ’ Hey what more do you want me to do? Do you want me to walk over the line and give it to you?’.
‘‘ You can’t give it to him too much but we have to work on those things – in some games that might be the difference between a win and a loss.
‘‘ It’s all fun and laughs now but we have to go back to training and work on that and make sure it doesn’t happen again because it might come back to bite us.’’
Ioane, a menace to the lumbering Cheetahs throughout, had more work to do but should have been able to link with either Ben Lucas or Davies to finish what would have been one of the most remarkable tries in the competition’s history.
Holding a 34-3 lead in the second half, Cooper, standing just inside the dead-ball line, produced a 40m crossf i e l d k i c k - p a s s t o a n unmarked Ioane who raced 65m but failed to deliver the last pace needed for Lucas.
The Reds had an advantage call from the referee but the Wallabies five-eighth was unaware.
For sheer audacity, it even e c l i p s e d C o o p e r ’ s b a c k - handed 15m flick pass for a Peter Hynes try in the last round of 2010.
‘‘ If there’s space out there why not take it?’’ he said. ‘‘ If I could pass to him I would but I can’t pass 40m so I kicked to him and he nearly turned it into a try.
‘‘ People might say it’s risky but if you trust your players I don’t see it as being risky.’’
Co a c h Ewen McKenzi e must now choose between Davies, Luke Morahan and Kiwi recruit Mike Harris for the vacant fullback role to play the Lions after Lucas ( groin) joined fellow No. 15 Peter Hynes ( knee) on the sidelines with a groin strain.
Three-quarters Will Chambers and Dom Shipperley, back-rower Liam Gill, prop Guy Shepherdson and halfback Ian Prior have been added to the Reds squad for the tour where they will play the Lions and top-placed Stormers.
On their return home the Reds will confront the defending champion Bulls and arch-rivals NSW.
• M e a n w h i l e , i n C a p e Town, the Western Force were struck by a virus and then knocked out cold by the Stormers in an embarrassing 51-16 Super Rugby loss in Cape Town on Saturday night.
F o r c e b a c k s N i c k Cummins, Gene Fairbanks, Alfie Mafi and Pat Dellit were laid low by a virus on the eve of the match, with Fairbanks hit the hardest and unable to take his spot.
But coach Richard Graham refused to use the untimely sickness as an excuse, labelling his team’s defence soft after watching the Stormers run in six tries to one.