The Reds won the battle of the basement by downing the Cheetahs 22-3 in their Super 14 rugby match played at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Sunday.
It was a match pitting the two bottom sides in the tournament against each other and it showed!
In high heat and extreme humidity the Reds opted for a Sevens-style game, flicking the ball from side-to-side and avoiding the contact points, and from early on it was apparent that the Cheetahs were struggling to keep up with the pace.
With referee Ian Smith quick to stop rucks the Cheetahs could not put the brakes on and the Bloemfonteiners looked a rag-tag bunch who do not belong in the tournament.
For the Reds it was their first win of the season and it says something for the low standard of the match that a 19-point victory margin was a poor return when ranged against their domination of possession and territory.
Jacques-Louis Potgieter opened the score for the Cheetahs with a penalty in the 7th minute but that would it for the Cheetahs who did almost everything wrong, from butter fingers, to slipping tackles, to being outscrummed, to failing to support each other.
In fact, it became so frustrating to a fine player such skipper Juan Smith that he was caught on camera handing out a frustrated slap on the back of Heinrich Brussow.
Outstanding interplay between the backs and forwards gave fullback Mark McLinden the Reds’ first try to take them to the break 7-3 in front. And there was an oddity about each of them. Digby Ioane might have been off-sides as he set off on a runaway sprint after the ball spurted out of the side of a ruck and Peter Hynes’ final touch-down was veiled in mystery for it seemed that Van Humphries, who made the running before unloading to the wing, had gained possession by way of a knock-on.
The Reds took the ball into a ruck and Humphries picked it up as it bobbled out on the Cheetahs side to set off on a run to the posts while a group of forwards continued to wrestle on the ground in search of a ball that wasn’t there any longer!
The Reds had other clear chances – a try by Hugh McMeniman being disallowed for an offence (a shoulder charge by Quade Cooper on Hennie Daniller) which had taken play just over a minute earlier and Berrick Barnes knocking on right under the Cheetahs’ crossbar.
For a side known for playing running rugby the Cheetahs should hang their heads in shame. They lacked cohesion, they lacked imagination, they lacked stamina and most of all they lacked spirit – all of which does not augur well for three more tough weeks on the road in New Zealand to take on the Hurricanes, the Blues and the Highlanders.
Reds: Tries - Mark McLinden. Digby Ioane, Peter Hynes. Conversions - Ben Lucas, Berrick Barnes. Penalty - Lucas
Cheetahs: Penalty - Jacques -Louis Potgieter