Crusaders plot revenge on Queensland Reds
A week ago Will Genia was the central performer of an unscripted circus act.
Soon after his side bellowed out their victory song at Eden Park, where they had beaten the Blues 23-11, Reds halfback Genia quietly advised coach Ewen McKenzie he was quitting his team to play for the Western Force next year.
What followed was a whacky routine that would have had comic novelist Tom Sharpe burning with envy. The next day former Wallabies and Reds legend Tim Horan blurted on TV that Genia was off to Perth, the Reds pumped out a farewell press release, emotional team-mate Digby Ioane reportedly shed a few tears and the Force administrators dived behind the nearest set of curtains.
Then the punch line: on Monday morning Genia declared he was staying in Brisbane.
For some Reds fans it seemed all that was missing from this gag was a set of floppy shoes, a water-squirting flower and an exploding rubber chicken.
But usher Genia onto the rugby field and he is no clown. Underestimate him at your peril.
The Crusaders have first-hand knowledge of how badly Genia can scald opponents because it was the lethal ball of muscle in the Reds' No9 jersey who inflicted the fatal blow in last year's Super final.
Having accelerated from a ruck, and past Kahn Fotuali'i's tackle, Genia burned a long trail towards the line to score the match-winning try and the Queenslanders triumphed 18-13.
Although the Reds boast a respected leader in lock James Horwill and a potent line breaker in wing Ioane, nullifying Genia – who also possesses a clever kicking routine – is the key to dismantling their game.
"I will be making sure my forwards are on the job, so they win lots of front-foot ball and cut down his space to run," Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis said.
Ellis also recalled Genia's game-breaking run in the final without relish. Having just been replaced by Fotuali'i, he turned to see Genia motoring into vacant space. "Yeah, it was pretty frustrating.
" It ended up being a telling play because they just beat us by a try. It plays on my mind a little bit but you just have to park it."
Strengthening the defensive wall around the ruck will limit Genia's space and dull his attacking zeal, he added.
"They play a lot of their play through nine and he kicks a lot. We just need to be on our game there."
Given their memory of that defeat, and how they defied logic by racing into the playoffs after their home ground was damaged by the earthquakes, the Crusaders will not struggle for motivation at AMI Stadium, their last victory against the Reds being May 8, 2010.
Injuries, most notably to first five-eighth Quade Cooper, have sucked much of the confidence out of the Reds this season. Cooper was in irresistible nick for the Reds last year before his form plunged with the Wallabies during the World Cup.
The Reds record has been modest this season. Five wins from nine matches has been their lot, including the humiliating 61-8 defeat to the Bulls in Pretoria on March 25.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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