The Reds are not Super Rugby champions nor favourites for the Australian Super Rugby conference, but if they can muster the same spirit they did on Friday night’s 28-26 win over the visiting Sharks, they deserve to be in the conversation – at least for the latter.
Two tries to Samu Kerevi and a mental toughness not seen for years were just enough to edge the Sharks, buoyed by a near-perfect night from the tee from Springbok Pat Lambie and some help from the referee.
Two yellow cards, one served to Kane Douglas in the 56th and the other to Karmichael Hunt in the 77th, threatened to sink the Reds at the final hurdle.
Instead, the Reds fought tooth and nail to the other end of the park and defended the narrowest of leads in front of 15,015 fans to secure their first victory at Suncorp Stadium since May, 2016.
Charged down kicks, forced passes, kicks out on the full, including when taken back into the 22m, were just some of the cohesion issues that plagued the Reds throughout the match, serving an ample reminder that the wrongs of old will need longer than one off-season to right.
The home side served up a sobering reminder of the Richard Graham era as an early Reds handling error was put to the sword by flanker Jean-Luc du Preez.
Still, there was plenty for the optimistic fan to latch on to as Quade Cooper manipulated the defence, an army of young guns fired and the outside backs trio continued to threaten their opposites.
Neither side could claim any great advantage in handling ability early though the Reds showed at least the desire to play expansively.
Lambie was gifted an easy first penalty goal as Scott Higginbotham rolled off his feet at the breakdown, 37 out from the posts.
A well-worked backline play sent Karmichael Hunt steaming into a half-gap out wide, linking with Kerevi to find space for Eto Nabuli. With one left to beat, Nabuli went over the top and looked to have scored through a pile of bodies, only to be held up.
Moments later that familiar Quade Cooper inside ball put Hunt through again, passing to find Frisby strolling into the backfield. Desperate scrambling defence forced an error from the Reds, denying support runner George Smith a try on debut.
Cooper converted a penalty goal in the 23rd minute to bring the Reds within four, but Lambie hit back with a wide penalty of his own five minutes later.
Flanker Adam Korczyk demonstrated why Nick Stiles had placed his faith in the 22-year-old, pouncing out of nowhere upon a Sharks quick lineout inside the 22m to force a knock-on.
Higginbotham finished off what Korczyk created with a pick-and-drive try under the posts to equalise, with Cooper’s successful conversion.
Lambie sent one last penalty goal flying behind the posts to end the half to secure the lead heading into the sheds.
An early offside penalty gifted Lambie his fifth goal of the night but the Reds would soon have their second try.
A 5m scrum deep inside the Sharks half gave Samu Kerevi just enough room to power through two tackles to cross, only to go unconverted in the 48th minute.
Kane Douglas was yellow-carded for a throw on loosehead Tendai Mtawarira, sending the Sharks to the corner for a siege by rolling maul.
Denied once, the Sharks were soon back – scoring this time through No.8 Lubabalo Mtembu.
With their backs against the wall, a flurry of points rescued the Reds – Samu Kerevi fighting through contact for a second before Cooper sent Paia’aua through on a sharp unders line, drawing the final man and putting away Bobby Tuttle for his first Super Rugby try and finally, a 28-26 lead.
Ahead by just two, a lunging Karmichael Hunt tackle on a falling Lwazi Mvovo struck the winger high, granting the previously faultless Lambie a chance to steal back the win with four minutes remaining.
A rare miss would prove the final shot the Sharks would fire before their flight to Canberra to take on the Brumbies.
Watchability rating: 5/10 in a frustrating arm wrestle that featured many bombed tries than successful ones.
The Game Changer
Duncan Paia’aua’s linebreak to create Bobby Tuttle’s maiden Super Rugby try snatched back the lead and ultimately the result, but any number of moments would have counted in a see-sawing fixture.
The injection of substitutes Tuttle and Izack Rodda marked the start of the Reds turned fortunes.
The G&GR MOTM
Adam Korczyk was a standout player for each of the 80 minutes he appeared, while substitute lock Izack Rodda provided a ton of lift.
Samu Kerevi scored 10 hard-earned points, while Patrick Lambie was incredible with the boot, from hand and from tee.
A miserly goal kicking performance from Quade Cooper may hurt his Wallabies stocks. Samu Kerevi proved the ole reliable yet again in Queensland colours.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Scott Higginbotham, Samu Kerevi (x2), James Tuttle
Penalties: Cooper (x2)
Tries: Jean-Luc du Preez, Lubabalo Mtembu
Conversions: Pat Lambie (x2)
Penalties: Pat Lambie (x4)
Cards & citings
Yellow cards: Kane Douglas (56′), Karmichael Hunt (77′)