Cooper miss costs Reds
Quade Cooper fluffed a last-gasp drop-goal as the Lions held on to secure an 18-17 Super Rugby victory over the Reds in Brisbane on Friday.
Australia fly-half Cooper, making his first Reds appearance of the season after breaking his collarbone in January, got his kick horribly wrong at the Suncorp Stadium as the 2011 champions slumped to their fifth defeat of the season.
The Lions clinched their third victory of the campaign - and their first in Brisbane since 2009 - thanks to tries from Harold Vorster and Warwick Tecklenburg and eight points from fly-half Elton Jantjies, including a match-winning penalty with nine minutes left.
The game started brightly enough for the Reds with Cooper kicking them into an 11th-minute lead with a straightforward penalty.
But the Lions hit back immediately with the game's first try when inside centre Vorster completed a sweeping move from their backline to dot down in the corner to give the South African side a 5-3 lead.
The Reds, who also welcomed back Australia internationals James O'Connor and Lachie Turner into their starting line-up, dazzled the home faithful with some silky handling but could not force their way over as the Lions defence remained resolute.
Cooper missed an easy 25-metre penalty shortly after the half-hour mark and his error proved costly as Jantjies kicked his first penalty of the match just before half-time to give the South Africans an 8-3 lead at the interval.
The Lions, who beat the Rebels last week to earn their first victory on Australian soil since 2011, weathered some early second-half pressure and extended their lead to 15-3 in the 48th minute when openside flanker Tecklenburg crashed over after the Reds made a mess of their line-out and Jantjies added the extras.
Wing Ruan Combrinck was then sin-binned for taking out Reds scrum-half Will Genia and the hosts reduced their deficit to 15-10 when referee Glen Jackson awarded a penalty try and Cooper made no mistake with the conversion from in front of the posts.
The Reds showcased more of their impressive handling skills, with Genia and Cooper rampant with ball in hand, and the stylish fly-half made a fine 30-metre break before offloading to centre Samu Kerevi to score their second try of the match with 10 minutes remaining.
Cooper subsequently kicked them into a 17-15 lead, but ill discipline at the breakdown would cost them the match when Jantjies slotted his second penalty to put the Lions 18-17 ahead moments later.
Chris Feauai-Sautia thought he had scored a match-winning try for the Reds with five minutes to play but the TMO revealed the replacement wing had knocked on rather than legally grounded the ball.
The Reds won the ball back from the subsequent Lions scrum but, having primed himself for the drop-goal, Cooper's skewed effort was charged down and a subsequent Reds knock-on cued wild celebrations from the Lions players as Jackson blew the full-time whistle.
The disappointment was etched across the Reds players' faces but there was some consolation at least as their narrow defeat had earned them a losing bonus point.