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Reds finish top of the poll

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Sportal.co.nz     18 Jun 2011     Getty Images

Cooper, who landed a conversion and four penalty goals to take his season tally 211 points, dominated the rhythm of the Reds' attack with controlled passing and deft kicking which offered too much class for the Chiefs to compete and gained his side a week off before their home semi-final in a fortnight.

Adding special lustre to the win was an outstanding display in the loose by flanker Liam Gill who dominated that area of play gaining several turnovers of tackled ball.

The Reds also managed to upset the Chiefs lineout during the middle stages of the game denying the home side several opportunities to build momentum.

The Chiefs withstood a first quarter assault from the Reds at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday to go to the break down 6-10.

The Reds struck at their first opportunity, five minutes into the game, after first five-eighths Cooper had kicked a penalty into the Chiefs right-hand corner. Winning the lineout through lock James Horwill, the Reds mounted a series of drives at the line and it was Gill who crossed for Cooper to add the conversion.

An instinctive reaction by Romana Graham in the 17th minute as the Reds looked to benefit from a blindside break by halfback Will Genia, resulted in him being sin-binned for deliberately knocking down the ball while an advantage was being played. Cooper landed the penalty goal – his 201st point for the season.

Fortunately Graham's absence didn't prove too costly for the Chiefs on the scoreboard as the Reds unleashed several tricks from Cooper's book but the defences held, albeit at the cost of injury to wing Sitiveni Sivivatu who suffered a shoulder dislocation as the result of a desperate tackle to deny Reds centre Ben Tapuai a try.

The Chiefs got their first points, courtesy of a penalty goal in the 30th minute from first five-eighths Stephen Donald's boot. He added a second in the 35th minute.

Needing to make a strong start to the second half, the Chiefs were unable to make any impression and while keeping the Reds tryless, they did concede three successive penalties which Cooper converted into points for a 19-6 lead.

Halfback Brendon Leonard offered hopes of a try for his side with a fine sniping run at the line in the 65th minute, but the Reds managed to hold him up.

The Chiefs pack had two more drives at the line, being caught short on the first occasion and having No.8 Fritz Lee lose control of the ball under the goalposts. Three minutes later in the 77th minute, however, Lee had his reward for the significant contribution he made around the field when crossing for a try from a scrum.

Scrummaging was one area where the home team had an advantage but Donald was unable to land the conversion, leaving the chance to win beyond the Chiefs.

Scorers:
Chiefs 11 (Fritz Lee try; Stephen Donald 2 pen) Reds 19 (Liam Gill try; Quade Cooper con, 4 pen). HT: 6-10