Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has praised his playmaker Quade Cooper for putting his body on the line in the closing stages of the Reds 19-13 victory over the Highlanders.
The Reds looked like they were home and dry after James Slipper scored the Queenslanders only try and giving the Reds a 16-3 lead with just over 20 minutes remaining.
However the Highlanders rallied back and were hanging by a thread immediately before the final whistle.
Quade Cooper who was playing in his second full game since his second knee reconstruction made a number of crucial tackles including one try-saver on 112kg lock Adam Thomson.
Cooper is more famous for his attacking skills and has come under fire in the past for his defensive weaknesses and McKenzie has rubbished claims that Cooper was a second-rate defender.
"He's been making crunch tackles ever since he came back," he told Sportal.
"Unfortunately it's a perception thing (with Cooper's defence) because he missed a few tackles a few years ago everyone just runs with that.
"He's getting his shoulder in there and statistically he has improved his defence every year I have been at the Reds.
"He's not the worst tackler in the competition, I can tell you that. There are plenty worse than him."
Reds caretaker captain Will Genia said that having his halfback partner Cooper back next to him has opened up all sorts of attacking possibilities for the Reds.
"Having Quade back just gives the whole group a lot more options," Genia said.
"He offers a lot as a threat to the line when he runs the ball, then he's got this exceptional passing game which spreads our attack, and the defence, right across the field."
Genia said he was proud of the way that the Reds defended their tryline as the Highlanders attacked at close range late in the match.
"When you are pushed to your limits on your try-line, you've just got to front-up and we did that," he said.
Coach McKenzie said that he hopes to have flanker Beau Robinson (ankle, recurring) and Rob Simmons (corked thigh) available for their final regular season match but said that winger Chris F'Sautia (hamstring) is finished for the season.
McKenzie said that he he been expecting next week's match between them and the Waratahs to be a classic but added that he did not imagine that their Reds title defence would hinge on it.
"I always figured the game would count for something. When you look at the calendar you know it's a big one even if it's only for bragging rights," he said.