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Reds eye Super Rugby wooden-spoon
May 18, 2014
Reds 27-30 Rebels (video available in Australia only)
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From Super Rugby champions to wooden-spooners in three years - that's the grim reality facing the Queensland Reds. And star playmaker Quade Cooper may not be there to rescue them until it's possibly too late. The Reds' sixth straight loss, the controversial 30-27 last-minute defeat by the Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium, not only saw them slump to their worst streak since 2008 but also last on the ladder.

A season from hell under new coach Richard Graham just became more despairing with a fourth three-point loss for the year and Cooper suffering a serious shoulder injury, ruling him out for a month. They will only fall further behind next weekend with a bye before hosting the in-form Highlanders on May 30 in the last round before the break for the June internationals.

But on current form, even with Cooper possibly back for their last three derby matches, it's hard to see where a win will come from. Queensland believed they were robbed after a spiteful-yet-entertaining encounter with the Rebels was decided by a belated reversed penalty by television match official Steve Lescinski at Suncorp Stadium.

Skipper James Horwill and Graham were furious Lescinski overturned Steve Walsh's original call as they were setting up a lineout 50m downfield from a scuffle between Ed O'Donoghue and Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham.

The Reds' Ed O'Donoghue and the Rebels' Scott Higginbotham in the match-defining incident, Queensland Reds v Melbourne Rebels, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, May 17, 2014
Ed O'Donoghue was cited following the match for the alleged eye-gouge © Getty Images
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O'Donoghue's red-card for an alleged eye-gouge was panned by Horwill who said Higginbotham didn't have a scratch on him and was surprised by the call. The Reds also claimed their reserve lock was reacting to a head-butt.

"You should judge on both incidents or you shouldn't judge on either," Horwill seethed. "Lots of things happen in every ruck. If you're going to go back for that you have to go back for every single incident in a game. You can't pick and choose one out of nowhere. That's the biggest irritation on the whole thing."

O'Donoghue was cited following the match and risks missing several matches if found guilty of eye-gouging.

Despite the controversy, the 11th-placed Rebels (21) - now three points clear of the Reds with a game in hand - were deserved victors, showing more grit in defence and better precision and adventure in attack. Rebels coach Tony McGahan brushed away the misfortune that their triumph would be overshadowed by the dramatic finish.

"That's okay, we had it with the Brumbies. The Brumbies were 'tired', the Force were 'tired'; that's okay," McGahan said. "Whatever other people think and whether they respect us is irrelevant to where we're at. We know we're on the right track."

© AAP

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