QUADE Cooper’s most decisive plays of the season have primed the Reds for a drought-breaking crack at the NSW Waratahs if defensive failings can be fixed.
Snapping a damning six-game losing streak in matches against Queensland’s oldest foe on April 29 at Suncorp Stadium is a necessity.
For Reds boss Nick Stiles, the maths are simple.
Topple the Waratahs for back-to-back wins, grab an overdue success in an Australian Conference game and rev the engine for a late-season rally.
“It’s baffling to me but we just hadn’t fronted up for the interstate game for a number of years until we had a real good crack in that narrow loss a year ago (15-13),” Stiles said.
“We’ve got to beat NSW. It’s as simple as that and it was pretty much the message I left the team with in the dressing room after the win over the Kings (47-34).
FIVE THINGS: Hunting a Wallabies jersey
“If you look at the Reds’ run in the finals (2011-13), Ewen McKenzie used victory over the Waratahs as a big driver to get those campaigns going.”
McKenzie coached five straight wins over the Waratahs to help nourish a golden period before the rot of losses set in.
Flyhalf Cooper’s polish as a playmaker was encapsulated by the clever crafting of three tries in seven minutes to kill off South Africa’s Kings last Saturday at Suncorp Stadium.
His 30m crossfield kick-pass to Karmichael Hunt to set up a 60m try for Izaia Perese did full justice to the trick first pulled by Paul McLean and Brendan Moon in the 1970s.
Kings left Red-faced2:03
NRL: The Queensland Reds made short work of the Kings at Suncorp Stadium.
It’s telling that in Cooper’s five-and-half games this season, the Reds have produced 16 tries and he has helped unlock winger Eto Nabuli for six.
The try-power shrunk to four tries in three games when fill-in Jake McIntyre was steering the show although he aided in two more against the Lions after Cooper was sent off.
“It did make a difference having Quade with the zippiness to his pass, his vision and his probing left and right,” Stiles said.
“That’s a play from his heyday when he’s putting in crossfield kicks and we’re running 80m to score a try.”
Stiles said the victory over the Kings was a huge tonic to take into a regenerating bye week but forecast plenty of hard work for the Waratahs clash.
“We have some work to tidy up our defence and the speed of the Kings out wide did expose some poor spacing because we crowding defenders close to the ruck,” Stiles said.
Karmichael Hunt’s zeal to lead up the defensive line from the centres is excellent but the Reds are striking problems with passive line speed when he’s not there.
Getting more from the bench is still a problem although late replacement Hamish Stewart produced two superb tackles back-to-back to save a try.
Stiles singled out rookie hooker Alex Mafi for an excellent first 40 minutes in his first run-on role.
“He was as nervous as any player I’ve seen pre-game but I thought he was excellent with the way he led a dominant scrum and showed his athleticism and footwork,” Stiles said.
Originally published as Predicting Tahs’ downfall in Quade’s vision
SOURCE: newsnow sport