REVIEW: Last night's Super Rugby match at Suncorp Stadium was always going to be about international stars Dan Carter and Quade Cooper, but it was referee Stu Dickinson who stole the show with a controversial last-minute penalty.
Depending on which corner you backed, Carter and Cooper were touted as the world's best No 10s before kick-off, although it was the latter's supporters who crowed loudest after the Queensland Reds trumped the Crusaders 17-16.
Carter shaded his adversary in a narrow points decision and kicked four of his five shots at goal. However, Cooper grabbed the accolades that mattered.
The Reds playmaker kicked the winning penalty when Crusaders captain Richie McCaw was controversially pinged at a ruck by referee Stu Dickinson for picking up the ball when he believed it was out, leaving the visitors frustrated and angered.
For the Crusaders, the defeat earned them just one competition point, damaging their hopes of overtaking the Blues (54 points) in the New Zealand conference. The Crusaders sit on 49 with three rounds left.
The match was billed as a beauty and it did not disappoint. It was a magical touch from Carter that created the visitors' only try of the first spell to right wing Brent Ward; having stripped Anthony Faingaa of the pill, he shipped a pass down the short side, where Robbie Fruean raced 40 metres before sending Ward into space.
Although his goal-kicking was poor – he missed three of his first four shots – Cooper, too, showed glimpses of true class as he sucked in a bomb to unload a classic pass in a heavy tackle in the first spell and unleashed a dynamite reverse pass under heat in the second. Glimpses of magic were traded between the pair following the halftime bell. Reds halfback Will Genia barged his way into centre stage with a cracking try down the blindside minutes after the restart.
Having spied some sleepy defence from a ruck, Genia dashed 22m untouched and the Reds snatched back a 14-10 lead in front of 48,300 fans.
As if their own fumbles were not enough to frustrate them, the Crusaders had to contend with Dickinson heaping breakdown penalties on them – eight in the first half alone – and he dished out his first warning to McCaw's men before the break.
With the Reds persisting with a flat attacking line, the Crusaders were able to thwart their manoeuvres in the initial phases, but with both mobs intent on moving the ball it seemed inevitable the defences would unravel.
Yet they held, leaving Carter to attempt a desperate drop goal that was deflected by Rob Simmons in the final minutes before kicking the penalty that nudged his side two points ahead.
There were several missed try-scoring chances by the Crusaders and when he looks at the tape today halfback Willi Heinz will have a dry throat as he sees himself blow a certain try by not linking with three unmarked men.
The scrum will have no such concerns, having forced a couple of turnovers in the opening quarter. From the second minute the signs were ominous as the Crusaders plundered the Reds' scrum feed, earning a penalty.
- The Press