Reds to fly out on a real high
The Queensland Reds will take some much-needed confidence into their two-game tour of South Africa after winning their first game of the Super Rugby season.
The Reds face difficult games against the Bulls in Pretoria and the Stormers in Cape Town in the next two weeks before returning home to play the Cheetahs on April 30.
But holding on to defeat reigning Super Rugby champions, the Highlanders, 28-27 at Suncorp Stadium, was a huge boost to their self belief following six defeats and a draw.
Co-interim coach Matt O'Connor was delighted to see the team break its duck this campaign.
"We're really pleased with that result," he said. "The playing group has worked incredibly hard and we saw the reward for their efforts.
"We've showed plenty of growth over the last month and we have a lot more in us.
"This was an important result, but it's only one win. We have to continue to work hard, get better and be consistent in our performances.
"We're all pleased to be able to leave our fans with such a good feeling before we head to South Africa for two weeks."
The Reds had to work for it, however. They looked to be cruising to victory after building up a 22-6 half-time lead against the New Zealand outfit.
They increased that lead to 28-6 with less than 30 minutes remaining but that's when the Higlanders switched on.
The visitors had two tries disallowed but scored five-pointers through Aaron Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and flyhalf Lima Sopoaga.
The Reds' scrambled in defence and managed to hold on in a desperate last 10 minutes.
Samu Kerevi and a rejuvenated Karmichael Hunt were the stars for the home team.
Kerevi scored one of three Queensland tries with Liam Gill and Nick Frisby also touching down, while Jake McIntyre banged over two conversions, two penalties and a crucial drop goal right on half-time.
QUEENSLAND REDS 28 (Liam Gill, Nick Frisby, Samu Kerevi tries; Jake McIntyre 2 conversions, 2 penalties, 1 drop goal) HIGHLANDERS 27 (Aaron Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Lima Sopoaga tries; Sopoaga 3 conversions, 2 penalties) at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday 9 April. Other results: Chiefs 29 Blues 23; Force 19 Crusaders 20; Stormers 46 Sunwolves 19; Hurricanes 40 Jaguares 22; Sharks 9 Lions 24; Kings 6 Bulls 38; BYES: Brumbies, Cheetahs, Rebels, Waratahs