Queensland Reds score key win over Stormers
There's no place like home for the Queensland Reds, who highlighted their love of Suncorp Stadium with a pressure-relieving 22-17 Super Rugby victory over the Stormers.
The Reds buried painful memories of their unsuccessful South African tour by dismantling the beleaguered Stormers' lineout for the grinding win on Saturday night.
It's the fifth straight year Queensland have won immediately on their return home from their tour of the Republic, and 29th win from their last 34 games at Suncorp.
A Brisbane crowd of 28,060 were happy to overlook the second-half handling errors and another nervy finish for the vital four points - which takes the Reds (14) to within three points of the Australian conference-leading Brumbies.
Quade Cooper looked to have sealed the match with a drop goal, quickly followed by his fifth successful penalty, for a 22-10 lead with 10 minutes left.
But the Stormers, who have lost their past four matches and failed to eclipse 20 points this season, stormed back with back-rower Sikhumbuzo Notshe scoring from a driving maul.
In the end, they could only reap a bonus point to end a forgettable Australasian tour which was compounded by a dislocated elbow to livewire fullback Gio Aplon.
Flanker Beau Robinson was tireless and Will Genia probed all night from the ruckbase in a fine halfback's display but the Reds' attack otherwise looked predictable and was too often easily shutdown.
Queensland cleaned up their discipline to win the penalty count 9-8.
They enjoyed 75 per cent of the possession in the first half but failed to capitalise on their superiority as the injury-hit visitors kept them to 13-10 at halftime.
A slick counter-attack off a Rob Simmons turnover paved the way for bustling Stormers winger Damian de Allende to post the first try of the match in the 19th minute.
Wallabies lock Simmons, who gave the visitors' flaky lineout grief throughout, hit back for the Reds with a strong pick-and-drive after a well-worked scrum move saw Dom Shipperley pulled down a metre short.
Queensland lost hooker Saia Fainga'a before kick-off with a shoulder problem, meaning his 100-match milestone would have to wait at least another week.
Reds coach Richard Graham praised the character of his side, particularly with Simmons and Ed Quirk battling back spasms during preparations and Cooper, James Slipper and Anthony Fainga'a all suffering from stomach bugs.
"It was a great win; it was outstanding," Graham said. "On the back of travel, the shortened week and a number of guys crook and a couple of guys with back spasms, it showed a lot of character.
"I'm really proud."
While it wasn't a pretty performance, Graham felt the 15-man team effort to build up for Cooper's field goal over multiple phases showed an important development in game management.
The Reds have winger Shipperley in doubt for next week's clash with the in-form Western Force after he was replaced with a hip-flexor injury.
The Stormers now return to Cape Town a team under siege with former Springboks assistant coach Gert Smal, who also coached the Stormers a decade ago, poised to replace Allister Coetzee.
Coetzee failed to attend Saturday night's post-match press conference, with captain Jean de Villiers saying he had to attend to new injuries.
Already without their four best locks - including Springbok Eben Etzebeth - they also suffered the loss of Jourie van Vuuren with a dislocated shoulder.
De Villiers backed Coetzee and said the under-strength team came together before the match and vowed to produce an inspired performance for the coach.
"That's the disappointing thing - that we couldn't get the result for the coach, and also for us as well to get a bit of pride back," the Springbok centre said.
Queensland Reds 22 (Rob Simmons try Quade Cooper con 4 pens drop goal) Stormers 17 (Damian de Allende, Sikhumbuzo Notshe tries Demetri Catrakilis, Peter Grant cons Grant pen) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Chris Pollock. Crowd: 28,060