The Reds returned to the victory trail when they secured a 27-22 win over the Lions in their Super Rugby clash in Brisbane on Friday.
As the scoreline suggests, the home side were made to work hard for this win and both sides scored four tries apiece.
The Reds deserve plenty of credit for this victory though as they dominated for large periods – with their first half performance particularly impressive – and although the Lions launched a brave fightback in the second half, they could not pull off the win but will leave Brisbane with a losing bonus point which they secured in the game’s dying moments.
The result means the Reds move into third place on the Australian Conference table, although that situation could change if the Brumbies beat the Crusaders later on Saturday, while the Lions are still sitting pretty at the top of the South African Conference.
The Reds made a terrific start when, two minutes after the kick off, Jean-Pierre Smith crossed for the opening try from the back of a lineout drive on the Lions’ five-metre line.
Hamish Stewart failed with the conversion attempt but the Reds continued to dominate for the next 10 minutes and extended their lead in the 12th minute when Caleb Timu intercepted a pass from Dillon Smit, just inside the Lions’ half, and outsprinted the cover defence before diving over in the left-hand corner.
The Lions tried to fight back but were impatient on attack which led to several unforced errors and despite finding themselves in the Reds’ 22 on a few occasions, they conceded too many penalties which worked in the home side’s favour.
And in the 27th minute, Stewart made a superb line break from midway between the halfway mark and the Lions’ try-line before he was tackled deep inside the visitors’ half by Franco Mostert.
Timu gathered the ball and made a dash for the line but was stopped just short of the whitewash. He did well to offload the ball, however, and Brandon Paenga-Amosa barged over from close quarters.
That was not the end of the Reds’ dominance though and on the stroke of half-time they put huge pressure on the Lions at a scrum, close to the visitors’ try-line, and George Smith gathered the ball as the set-piece disintegrated before diving over the whitewash.
Filipo Daugunu added the extras which gave the Reds a 24-0 lead at the interval and the flyer made it 27-0 when he added a penalty in the 49th minute.
That was the cue for the visitors to awaken from their slumber and they had the better of the exchanges for the next 15 minutes, and were rewarded with two Malcolm Marx tries off the back of lineout drives during that period.
The Lions continued to hammer away at the Reds’ try-line in the game’s closing stages and narrowed the gap when Marnus Schoeman barged over from close quarters in the 78th minute.
The visitors needed another try to secure their losing bonus point and they achieved that when Schoeman, once again, powered his way over the whitewash after the full-time hooter had gone.
Tries: JP Smith, Timu, Paenga-Amosa, G Smith
Cons: Daugunu 2
Tries: Marx 2, Schoeman 2
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi (c), 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 Hamish Stewart, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 George Smith, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Jean-Pierre Smith
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Izaia Perese
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Franco Mostert (c), 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Marnus Schoeman, 22 Nic Groom, 23 Ashlon Davids
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)