The Reds came from behind to register a two-point 28-26 win over the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium to open their 2017 Super Rugby campaign.
A second half brace from Man-of-the-match Samu Kerevi and a try from substitute scrumhalf James Tuttle with nine minutes to play helped Queensland to victory.
No 8 Scott Higginbotham scored the Reds’ first try to keep them in the game at the break.
16 points from the boot of skipper Pat Lambie was not enough for the Durban-based Sharks, who had led for most of the match. The flyhalf had a chance to win the game at the death with a penalty but could not convert.
Speaking after the match Lambie said: “We hung on for a long time, we had a chance to win at the end but we just weren’t good enough to get over the line.
“Our fitness levels were good, but more importantly we didn’t execute well today and we put ourselves under a lot of pressure.
“We had to make more tackles than we would have liked and a few too many penalties, our discipline wasn’t good.”
The Sharks led 16-13 at the break but lost momentum late in the game as the Reds surged back.
Tries from Jean-Luc du Preez and Tera Mtembu were in vain and not even Quade Cooper’s bad day with the boot could get the South Africans over the line. They did claim a losing bonus-point.
The Sharks started brightly when Du Preez powered over for second-minute try. Two penalties and a conversion gave the visitors a three-point lead.
Despite dominating possession and territory the Reds trailed. Cooper kicked two penalties before Higginbotham’s 33rd minute try kept his team within touching distance.
Both set-pieces were excellent. The South Africans’ dominant driving maul was a force throughout. It was the go-to move on attack and a safe option in defence.
The Reds, with George Ford back in Super Rugby for his 143rd appearance, were dominant at the breakdown and had almost 65 percent possession throughout the game.
Handling errors afflicted both sides and too many kicks from hand were wasted, handing the opposition back the ball to counter attack.
When the ball was sent wide, it was the home team who were the most dangerous – and prosperous.
Both of Kerevi’s tries came from sucking in defenders at the ruck before spreading the ball to their attacking outside backs.
Lambie’s early second half penalty extended his team’s lead to six points before Kerevi’s double, sandwiched between Mtembu’s try, started the Reds’ comeback.
With so little ball, the Sharks defenders started to tire and tackles were missed. Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach’s attempt on Kerevi was a mismatch, as the centre powered over.
It was not all power however. With Cooper attempting many skip-passes, wrap-arounds and short pop-passes, the Reds’ provided craft to go with their graft. They always had something more in the creativity department.
The Durbanites could never shake off their hosts, who always scored after conceding, whether through Lambie’s accurate boot, or with the tries that they conceded in either half.
The win was all the more impressive because the Reds played two passages with 14 men after Kane Douglas and Karmichael Hunt’s second half yellows.
It was the visitors who ran out of steam as the Reds squeezed and upped the tempo late in the game. After Lambie’s conversion of Mtembu’s 61st minute try gave the Sharks a 26-18 lead, the momentum shifted.
Cooper managed to miss the conversion of Kerevi’s second try and a penalty before substitute N0 9 Tuttle scored to give his team their first lead of the game.
The Reds ran the ball across the field with Cooper’s deft pop-pass to Duncan Paia’Aua broke the defensive line.
Paia’Aua’s offloaded to Tuttle, who had only been on for 30 seconds, before going over the line to score.
Tuttle missed the extras after taking over kicking duties from Cooper yet, inside 10 minutes of the Sharks extending their lead by eight, the Reds scored 10 unanswered points.
It was a lead they would not relinquish. Lambie had a chance with two minutes left to win the game but chose the wrong time to miss his first kick of the match.
“We showed a lot of character tonight and that’s what good sides build on, so hopefully that means something,” Reds skipper James Slipper said.
“We had two yellow cards and we defended really well, I’m just glad we got the win and especially back here at Suncorp Stadium.”
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Final Score Reds 28 (13) Sharks 26 (16)
Tries – Higginbotham, Kerevi (2), Tuttle
Pen – Cooper (2)
Con – Cooper
Cards – Yellow: Douglas, Hunt
Tries – Du Preez, Mtembu
Pen – Lambie (4)
Con – Lambie (2)
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 1:Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 2:Nic Berry
TMO :Damien Mitchelmore
1. James Slipper ©, 2. Stephen Moore ,3. Sam Talakai,4. Rob Simmons ,5. Kane Douglas ,6. Adam Korczyk ,7. George Smith (Queensland debut), 8. Scott Higginbotham ,9. Nick Frisby ,10. Quade Cooper ,11. Eto Nabuli ,12. Duncan Paia’aua ,13. Samu Kerevi,14. Chris Kuridrani ,15. Karmichael Hunt.
Replacements :16. Andrew Ready ,17. Markus Vanzati (Potential Queensland/Super Rugby debut), 18. Sef Fa’agase ,19. Izack Rodda (Potential Queensland/Super Rugby debut) , 20. Hendrik Tui ,21. James Tuttle ,22. Jake McIntyre ,23. Izaia Perese (Potential Queensland/Super Rugby debut).
1 Tendai Mtawarira , 2 Franco Marais, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen , 4 Etienne Oosthuizen , 5 Ruan Botha , 6 Philip van der Walt , 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 8 Tera Mtembu (Vice-Captain) , 9 Cobus Reinach , 10 Patrick Lambie (Captain) , 11 Lwazi Mvovo , 12 Andre Esterhuizen , 13 Lukhanyo Am , 14 Kobus van Wyk , 15 Curwin Bosch
Replacements : 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit,18 Lourens Adriaanse,19 Stephan Lewies,20 Jacques Vermeulen,21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward,23 Clement Poitrenaud.