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Reds need Super escape-act to make finals
Jim Morton
11:51 AEST Sat Jul 7 2012

Cardiac kids Queensland must produce their biggest escape-act of all in next week's final round to wriggle into the Super Rugby play-offs and defend their title.

A bonus-point 32-10 win by the Sharks over South African rivals the Bulls in Durban on Saturday morning (AEST) has dropped the Reds out of the top six and left them teetering ahead of a massive assignment against NSW.

Queensland meet their arch-rivals on Saturday night at their Suncorp Stadium fortress, where they will be favoured to win, but also need a four-try bonus point to be a solid shot of making the finals.

The last time the Reds scored that many tries in the traditionally tight and dour interstate grudge match was way back in 2003.

They sit on 53 points following Friday night's dramatic 19-13 win over the fast-finishing Highlanders but are seventh on the table behind the Sharks and Bulls (both 54).

The two South African sides enter the last round as hot favourites, with the Sharks at home to the Cheetahs and the Bulls hosting the last-placed Lions, and can ensure play-off berths with bonus-point wins.

Hit by injuries and an early-season slump, Queensland have kept themselves alive with plenty of grit and have done their best work with their backs to the wall - highlighted by five straight wins.

The defending champions got themselves out of jail in round one with a last-gasp try by Dom Shipperley against the Waratahs and were also lucky to survive in Canberra on May 26 when Brumbies goalkicker Zac Holmes missed a match-winning penalty.

Again, on Friday night, they escaped by repelling the Highlanders who hammered their line at Suncorp Stadium continuously over a frantic final two minutes.

Coach Ewen McKenzie defended their tactics to take penalty goals, with Mike Harris kicking four three-pointers, to build scoreboard pressure rather than taking the punt on tries.

While they will likely need that bonus point against NSW, McKenzie stressed his side would again put their prime focus into winning the clash before aiming for four tries.

They have crossed four times in just three games this season.

"You have to win the game first," McKenzie told AAP. "What people don't understand is the scoreboard creates a lot of pressure.

"We have to play well over 80 minutes and you get the reward over 80 minutes so that's the challenge there."

Another huge challenge will be overcoming a worrying injury toll with lock Rob Simmons (quad-knee) and flanker Beau Robinson (foot) in serious doubt and winger Chris F'Sautia (hamstring) ruled out for the season.

Flanker Liam Gill (hamstring) and winger Digby Ioane (pneumonia) are expected to return while No.8 Scott Higginbotham was almost a late scratching against the Highlanders with an elbow infection.

The Crusaders (56) and Brumbies (54), who play NSW on Saturday night, are yet to seal their top-six spots but boast home clashes against the lowly Force and Blues, respectively, next weekend.

AAP jsm/


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