The Reds went into the 2012 Super Rugby season full of confidence as defending Champions even without their mercurial No.10 Quade Cooper leading the way. It was always going to be a difficult assignment without Cooper but it opened up opportunities for the next generation of players when Mike Harris stepped up to the mark to lead the attack when they defeated the Waratahs on the bell in the opening Round 25-21. Their next two matches against the Australian franchises the Force and Rebels were far from convincing but the critics gave the Reds the benefit of doubt seeing as it was early in the season. But after Round Six of the competition their hopes of retaining their title are quickly falling apart after three successive losses in a row and a team riddled with injuries making it hard for coach Ewen McKenzie to put a competitive team on the field after losing to the Force 45-19 last weekend. The Reds haven't lost three matches in a row since 2009 and unless they get their act together very quickly they are facing another embarrassment in Brisbane next weekend when they take on the in form Brumbies. The Reds have conceded 106 points in two games which is incredible for the defending Champions and even though they are missing many of their key players this part of their game is atrocious. It was only a month ago that the Reds faced the Force in Brisbane winning 35-20 in a hard fight game, but since then they have lost two crucial No.10's in Mike Harris and Ben Lucas with the incumbent Dallan Murphy selected straight out of club rugby. Murphy is a useful player but until he settles into the rhythm of Super Rugby it is hard to expect too much from him just yet and he looked uncomfortable and out of place playing at this level. Last year the Reds season was largely defined after winning three matches in South Africa, a feat no other Australian team had managed before but unfortunately this year their trek to the Republic could signal the start of their decline. They lost to the Sharks in Durban 27-22 before being smashed 61-8 by the Bulls and their game against the lowly rated Force team in Perth was meant to be the beginning of their revival. The Force have never had the consistency that it takes to be a serious contender as was shown after they defeated the Waratahs in Sydney 21-20 before falling to the Rebels in Melbourne a week later so their reputation was certainly on the line against the Reds at home. They played with enormous enthusiasm leading the Reds for the entire match with bunch of unknown players along side of Wallabies Nathan Sharpe and captain David Pocock who just get better with age. The Force scored the first 21 points of the match before Reds prop James Slipper crossed the line but they were never going to catch the runaway train and when replacement No.10 Ben Seymour scored early in the second half the game was over. Without Cooper the Reds lack the flair that set the rugby world alight last year and they play without the enthusiasm and drive needed to defend their title which is looking shaky. The Force scored five tries in a dominating performance with fullback Dave Harvey contributing twenty points of his own with 4 conversions and 4 penalties and the Reds were lucky that the score wasn't greater. The Reds season is now on the line when they face the Brumbies next weekend and though they are expected to regroup at home they simply do not have the depth in talent to patch up the gaps in their player line up.