Scott Higginbotham scored a late try to hand the Reds a shock 29-28 victory over the Blues in Brisbane on Friday.
It wasn’t the most exciting game ever, but this cross-conference clash wasn’t short of action as the Blues and Reds combined to score eight tries at Suncorp Stadium.
Higginbotham scored a brace for the hosts, while fullback Bryce Hegarty contributed 14 points via a try, three conversions and a penalty.
Augustine Pulu also bagged a double for the Blues, but the performance of Ma’a Nonu, in particular, stood out. The veteran centre was a rock on defence and solid on attack, especially in the first half when he went on a devastating run straight through the Reds defence to set up Pulu’s first try.
The New Zealand side took a 14-point lead early on and looked set to run away on the scoreboard. But the Reds did well to claw their way back into the contest to trail by 21-15 at the break. Higginbotham got one of the Reds’ tries to become the first forward to score 40 tries in Super Rugby.
The hosts made a blistering start to the second half with Hegarty crashing over for a self-converted try that put his side in front for the first time. But their joy was short-lived as the Blues hit back quickly on the back of a penalty. Their forwards bust holes towards the line before Pulu jumped from the back of the ruck over the line to get the visitors back in the ascendancy.
But the Reds kept pounding away at the Blues’ line at the end, and while the visitors initially did well to withstand the attack, the pressure eventually took its toll as Higginbotham found space out wide to run in his second, and more importantly, the match-deciding try, converted by Hegarty.
Reds – Tries: Scott Higginbotham (2), Taniela Tupou, Bryce Hegarty. Conversion: Hegarty (3). Penalty: Hegarty.
Blues – Tries: Blake Gibson, Taniela Tele’a, Augustine Pulu (2). Conversions: Otere Black (4).
Reds – 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi (c), 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 Matt McGahan, 9 Scott Malolua, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Gav Luka, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Hamish Stewart.
Blues –15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Tanielu Tele’a, 10 Otere Black, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (c), 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Subs: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Lua Li, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Josh Goodhue, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Levi Aumua.