Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Cooper stars as Reds down Chiefs

Richard Kahui is tackled during the Chiefs' Super 15 encounter against the Reds in Hamilton. Photo /Getty Images
Richard Kahui is tackled during the Chiefs' Super 15 encounter against the Reds in Hamilton. Photo /Getty Images

Reds 31 Chiefs 23

Much more of this and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans really will have some explaining to do.

Having left Quade Cooper out of his "logistics'' camp featuring the 30 best players in Australia, the first-five played a starring role in his Reds' team's victory over the Chiefs in front of 16,400 at Waikato Stadium this afternoon.

The funny thing was it wasn't even particularly unexpected. Cooper and halfback Will Genia are such a potent and intelligent attacking force there seems no limit to what they can do on a rugby field and so it proved, the Chiefs succumbing at their headquarters for the first time since July last year when they were beaten by the Crusaders.

Deans has said Cooper's absence from the squad ahead of the Lions tour in June wasn't particularly significant and there was still a way in for the player with whom he clearly has a dysfunctional relationship.

Cooper called the Wallabies' environment "toxic'' last year, but having signed a new two-year deal with the Australian Rugby Union, the pair clearly have to work things out for their own sake and that of the Wallabies.

With Cooper and Genia in tandem any team has a head start. Cooper, the player born and bred in Tokoroa, just down the road, scored one try, a lovely little show and go under the posts, just after the break to extend his team's 14-13 halftime lead but his influence was much greater than that.

The Reds are building this year after a poor 2012 in which they had some terrible injury problems. Now, with captain and lock James Horwill back, and Genia and Cooper pulling the strings, they are looking much more like the champion team of 2011 in terms of personnel and form.

It was a rusty old performance from the Chiefs, their second defeat of the season after they were pipped by the Stormers in Cape Town. Both teams had the bye last weekend but the Reds started the brighter, James Horwill charging 20m and held up over the line by Liam Messam, Tanerau Latimer and Aaron Cruden.

A try for Rod Davies was bombed due to poor pass by fullback Jono Lance but the wing helped his mate out shortly after when intercepting a Cruden pass and racing in from 50m.

With the Reds racing up on defence and competing hard at the breakdown, it was difficult for the Chiefs to get a foothold on this game. It wasn't through lack of trying - Richard Kahui putting in a memorable hit on second-five Ben Tapuai.

Gareth Anscombe probably should have passed to wing Tim Nanai-Williams rather than dummy with the line looming but a nice piece of skill from the fullback allowed Bundee Aki to score. His inside pass showed a nice understanding from both players.

The lead was shortlived. After 25 minutes Genia kicked a penalty for touch rather than goal, a wise decision as it turned out. From the lineout, the Reds piled several backs into the rolling maul and No8 Jake Schatz came up with the ball.

Cooper's lovely touch with the ball after halftime allowed his team to take a grip of the game and his mate Genia all but sewed it up only minutes later thanks to a sublime cut-out pass which allowed Davies to go around Anscombe for his second try.

The Chiefs had chances - Kahui broke through but kicked instead of passing and Patrick Osborne, on for Nanai-Williams in the second half, put the Chiefs hot on attack only for the movement to break down.

There was cynicism in the way the Reds approached the breakdown on defence at times and Anthony Faingaa paid the price when he was sinbinned, Osborne quickly getting a deserved try in the centre's absence.

The Reds got the wobbles - lineouts went astray, tackles were missed - but they hung on for a deserved and, in terms of the competition, significant victory.

Reds 31 (Rod Davies 2, Jake Schatz, Quade Cooper tries; Cooper 4 cons, pen)
Chiefs 23 (Bundee Aki, Patrick Osborne tries; Gareth Anscombe 2 cons, 3 pens)

- APNZ

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