Reds not lulled by Rebels' patchy form ahead of conference derby

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Scott Higginbotham says the Rebels' recent foibles provide cold comfort to a Reds side chasing a conference-turning upset in Melbourne tomorrow night.

The Rebels' (5-5) hold joint leadership of the Australian conference with the Brumbies (5-6), with the plucky Reds (5-5) just two points behind on the competition ladder.

But Dave Wessels' side heads into Friday night's match on the back of a three-game losing streak and with the demons of last year's late-season in their subconscious.

Senior forward Higginbotham knows better than to underestimate the Rebels though.

"I think they'll still be confident in terms of how they went in the first game against us," Higginbotham said of the Rebels' round seven bonus-point win in Will Genia and Quade Coopers return to Suncorp Stadium.

"You'd think they would use a lot of the same tactics.

"Last year was one apiece, we got them at the end of the season.

Scott Higginbotham at the ALP's election funding announcement for Ballymore. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

"This year, unfortunately, at home, we dropped the bundle and they got on top of us.

"I won't take too much from their losses, they'll be up for the game and we all know how important these conference games are."

The Reds are determined to slow down the ball that gets to Genia and Cooper to avoid a repeat of the round seven performance from the halves.

But if they are able to get constant ball, the Reds' defence needs to meet their speed and urgency in what is a season-defining match.

"We've obviously got to play our defence to their speed," he said.

"Will and Quadey love to play with that front-foot ball and that's what they play on the back of - their forwards getting front-foot ball and those blokes getting space off the back of that.

"We've got to combat that with our defence. But still, we need to play football.

"The first time we played them our attacking game was nowhere near good enough and I think we let their enthusiasm get the best of us."

All too often, the Reds have wilted when an opportunity presents.

But Higginbotham said his team was well aware of the importance of the match and was prepared.

"We've got three conference games in a row, and I guess, three of the most important games of the season," he said of last week's clash against the Sunwolves followed by the Rebels and Waratahs matches.

"The table is so tight and we've realised how important it is to get these conference wins.

"We'll just be doing the same thing we did last week and getting four points to that table is the goal.

"I think we understand where we were last week in terms of that Sunwolves game and where we need to improve.

"To still get the win and play that kind of football, is a positive and it's probably good to get that first game of those three conference games.

"It's tough having young guys with not a lot of experience but I think we've been building well, especially in the lineout over the last few weeks.

"We've worked out our kinks and I think we're well prepared for tomorrow night."

The Rebels host the Reds at AAMI Stadium on Friday, May 9, kicking off at 7:30pm, broadcast live on Fox Sports, Kayo Sports and via radio.