Reds edge Sharks in Suncorp Stadium thriller

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Queensland Reds have scrapped their way through erratic ball handling, two yellow cards and some contentious refereeing to record an exhilarating 28-26 victory over the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium.

They led for just 10 minutes but it was enough to secure victory by the barest of margins, as the home side fumbled their way through the match with intermittent flashes of the Australian conference contenders they aspire to be.

James Tuttle scored the match winner. Photo: Getty ImagesIt was a game that the Reds of 2014-16 would have botched but the overwhelming power of Samu Kerevi, some terrific impact by their substitutes and a spirited Scott Higginbotham performance snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

The match-winning try in the 70th minute was one for the archives, Quade Cooper throwing a perfect pass to Duncan Paia'aua, who had run a superb line before offloading to James Tuttle to score with his second touch of the ball.

What could have only been a vicious case of Reds nerves set them back seven points from the get-go, as Cooper dropped the ball in contact 50 metres out, sending the Sharks streaking away unopposed for a try, Jean-Luc du Preez the scorer.

The Reds backs struggled to string together flashy set piece plays on multiple occasions in the first half , through poor hands or passes held for a touch too long by their chief playmaker.Quade Cooper and the Reds backs coughed up ball all game. Photo: Getty ImagesWhen they stuck to basics, they were rewarded, with a 33rd-minute Nick Frisby pass off the back of a scrum finding Samu Kerevi 10 metres out from the Sharks line.

The flying Fijian barged his way over the advantage line and three pick-and-drives later, Scott Higginbotham had forced his way over next to the posts for the first Queensland try of the year.

The teams traded penalties throughout the first term and the boot of Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie put his team in front 16-13 at the break.

The second half was christened by another Lambie penalty before the Reds were again rewarded for keeping things simple.Karmichael Hunt was one of the Reds' best. Photo: Getty ImagesCaptain James Slipper elected to take a scrum seven metres out from the Sharks line and after a solid scrum, Kerevi made two Sharks defenders pay for standing off by slicing between them to score and cut the margin to one.

Proceedings turned sour in the 56th minute when Karmichael Hunt was not awarded a penalty when clearly obstructed on a chip-and-chase effort before Kane Douglas was sin binned for pulling Tendai Mtawarira out of a maul by his neck.

The Sharks capitalised and rolled their way to a try through Lubabolo Mtembu, referee Nick Briant awarding a try despite no vision of the ball touching the ground when the decision was sent to the TMO.

Once again, the Reds stuck to basics and hit back through a burrowing Kerevi run, leaving 15 minutes for the home side to whittle down a three-point margin.

Tuttle's try had them in front for the first time in the match, and the nerves threatened when Hunt was carded with five minutes left, but Lambie's only wayward penalty  ensured Queensland notched their opening 2017 win.

QUEENSLAND REDS 28

Tries: Kerevi 2, Higginbotham, Tuttle

Cons: Cooper

Pens: Cooper 2

Yellow cards: Douglas (56), Hunt (75')

SHARKS 26

Tries: du Preez, Mtembu

Cons: Lambie 2

Pens: Lambie 4

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