Queensland’s new Super Rugby era is off to a winning start after a thrilling come-from-behind 28-26 victory over the Sharks on Friday night.
It was far from champagne rugby from the Reds, who endured a horror start by conceding a try in the first minute but scrapped their way back into the match to ensure a memorable debut for coach Nick Stiles.
Wallabies powerhouse Samu Kerevi picked up from his sizzling form of last year with a double, while reserve half-back James Tuttle delivered the winner with his first Super Rugby try in the 71st minute, capitalising on a surging run from centre Duncan Paia’aua.
The rousing fightback saved the blushes of returning five-eighth Quade Cooper, whose awful mistake led to Jean-Luc du Preez’s opener – which left the Reds reeling at 7-0 – and whose 3/6 kicking threatened to lose it for them.
Sharks playmaker Pat Lambie, meanwhile, nailed his first six shots on goal but missed the chance to win it for the South Africans in the 77th minute after Karmichael Hunt was yellow-carded for a high hit on Lwazi Mvovo.
It was the second sin-binning of the night for Queensland, with Kane Douglas also punished for tackling Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira around the neck midway through the second half.
While Douglas was off, the Sharks went 24-18 ahead through Tera Mtembu but the Reds persisted, replied with Kerevi’s second try and showed great character to snatch the result at the end.
A crowd of 15,015 fans were on hand at Lang Park to catch their first glimpse of recruits Cooper, Stephen Moore, Scott Higginbotham and George Smith, but the Reds clearly remain a work in progress.
Handling errors and poor decision-making undid much of their good attacking work, with the Sharks’ desperate scramble defence also snuffing out a series of chances in the first half.