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Crusaders and Sharks are still in the hunt after great victories on the weekend. By Mark Ella

When the Sharks half back Charl McLeod intercepted a pass from Reds No.9 Will Genia four minutes into the second half to run 75 metres to score under the posts the game was well and truly over with a commanding lead over the Reds 27-10.

Without their chief playmaker Quade Cooper who spent the night running water for his hapless team-mates, the Reds never looked in the game as they were smothered by the rampant Sharks who didn’t leave anything to chance convincingly winning the match 30-17.

The commotion leading up to last Saturday night’s game in Brisbane was all about Cooper and whether the Reds should appeal SANZARS decision to suspend the Reds super star for one match instead of focusing on the match itself.

The Reds started the match poorly and after only eleven minutes into the game they were trailing the Sharks 10-0 after a penalty from No.10 Freddie Michalak and a superb try to Springboks winger JP Pietersen after some fantastic ball play from the Sharks three-quarters.

To make matters worse their stand in five eighth Ben Lucas left the field with a badly damaged ankle injury after twenty minutes forcing the Reds to reorganise their backline with replacement Nick Frisby coming onto the field at half back with Genia moving to five eighth.

Genia is a great scrum half and even though he did a good job filling in for Cooper and Lucas he looked lost as the Reds started to play aimless rugby and from this moment onwards they were never in the race.

Leading at half time 20-10 the Sharks defended stoutly in the second half with the Reds throwing everything bar the kitchen sink at them but to their credit their defence held firm and it wasn’t until the full time hooter had sounded before the Reds put their only second half points on the board when replacement No.8 Radike Samo scored next to the posts.

It was a disappointing end to the season for the Reds who did a wonderful job in making it this far after such a slow start to their season which was dominated by a spate of injuries but nothing can be taken away from a clinical Sharks performance.

The Reds have not had a good year in terms of success against South African teams because in 2012 they only managed to defeat this year’s wooden spooners the Lions losing to the Bulls, Cheetahs, Stormers and Sharks twice.

In the other finals play-off last weekend the Crusaders made mince meat of a disjointed Bulls outfit who kicked away far too much possession and were never in the game losing 28-13.

With No.10 Morne Steyn playing way below his ability the Bulls couldn’t get into rhythm and their incessant kicking did them no favours.

The match was completely dominated by the Crusaders who put enormous pressure on the Bulls every time they had possession forcing them into making elementary mistakes and rather than fight their way back into the game they capitulated far too easily. 

Their ill-discipline was their biggest problem and even though they outscored the Crusaders two tries to one in Christchurch they came a poor second against a very good Crusaders team who know how to play finals football.

All Blacks five eighth Daniel Carter made the Bulls suffer for all of their indiscretions booting six penalty goals, a field goal and converting Zac Guildford’s try in the twenty fifth minute.    

So this weekend the Aussies have a few more weeks to prepare for the upcoming Rugby Championship whilst the better teams in the Southern Hemisphere fight it out for the Super Rugby Championship.

Next weekend we again have a couple of local derbies for the semi-finals play-offs with the Stormers playing the Sharks in Cape Town and the Chiefs up against the Crusaders in Hamilton.

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