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Reds hold out against Waratahs to book play-off against Crusaders
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The Reds produced a resilient second-half performance to hold out against the Waratahs and earn a 14-12 victory in Sydney on Saturday.
One try from Ben Lucas combined with a three penalties from Quade Cooper was enough to see the Reds secure their play-off spot as the Super Rugby season enters the knockout stages.
Following the disappointment of being left out of the Wallabies squad which lost to the British and Irish Lions, Reds fly-half Cooper made an early statement when he slotted home a three-pointer with ease as the visitors took the lead.
It was a short-lived advantage for the Reds however as Waratahs full-back Cam Crawford raced over the line for his eighth try of the season before Brendan McKibbin added the extras from the tee.
Cooper was again central as the Reds responded with immediate effect with the half-back opting for a tap-and-go penalty before a searing long pass found Lucas who subsequently touched down in the left hand corner to see the lead switch hands once again.
Despite briefly losing John Ulugia - after the hooker shouldered Rod Davies - the Waratahs continued to pressurise the Queensland side and were duly rewarded when fly-half McKibbin expertly intercepted before racing away to find Berrick Barnes, as the hosts took a 12-8 advantage into the break.
Cooper brought the Reds within a point when he successfully dissected the uprights five minutes into the second period before Davies was floored once again. With play stopped the medics helped the pained Reds winger off the field as Dom Shipperley came on as a replacement.
There was high drama moments later when Ulugia was caught punching at a breakdown. Referee Steve Walsh conferred with the television match official and opted to reprimand the forward rather than send him off following his early infringement.
The Reds continued to advance into Waratahs territory and duly earned a penalty which Cooper converted into three points as the visitors regained a slender two-point advantage with 25 minutes left to play.
Michael Cheika's Waratahs remained spirited to the end as they continued to battle, but when Barnes squandered a well-placed penalty and a drop goal attempt the victory was handed to the Reds.
The narrow win sees the Reds finish fifth in the Super Rugby standings with the remaining Saturday fixtures unable to have any impact on their position.
Ewen McKenzie's side will now travel to Christchurch where they will face the Crusaders in the play-offs next weekend.