The Highlanders' play-off hopes were dealt a massive blow on Friday as they slipped to a 38-31 defeat to the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.
The Highlanders' play-off hopes were dealt a massive blow on Friday as they slipped to a 38-31 defeat to the lowly Reds at Suncorp Stadium.
In a morale-boosting display, the Reds outscored the visitors five tries to four to climb off the bottom of the Super Rugby overall standings with just their fourth win of the season.
In a thrilling encounter the Highlanders came from 21-0 down at half time to level the scores at 31-31 all in the 80th minute.
But Reds loose forward Jake Schatz scored his second try of the night well after the final hooter to save the result for the home side.
Against all expectations, the Reds raced to a 21-point at the interval as three unanswered tries – from Curtis Browning, Rod Davies and Dom Shipperley – left the Highlanders shell shocked.
The team from Dunedin came back strongly in the second half though as tries from Lima Sopoaga, Richard Buckman gave them hope.
The Reds replied with an impressive pushover try but Highlanders wing Patrick Osborne's late try set up an grandstand finish.
Fumiaki Tanaka's score in the final minute of regulation time looked to have handed the Highlanders three tournament points… but the Reds would have the last laugh.
The Highlanders did most of the playing in the first half but it was the Reds who did all the scoring, profiting from the errors of their overeager visitors.
Browning was first over the whitewash as he burrowed his way over from short range after a break from Mike Harris put the Reds on the attack.
Davies was next to touch down, on the half-hour mark, after a shocker from Sopoaga, who dropped the ball while attempting to take a mark to allow the Reds wing to grab the easiest of tries as he pounced on the loose ball in-goal.
Harris could step up for his third conversion after Shipperley gathered Will Genia's kick over the top to score.
At 21-0 as the teams headed for the changing rooms, the result looked settled, but the Highlanders started the second half with bang.
Sopoaga went over in the corner off Shaun Treeby's pass to spark the revival.
The Reds scrum rumbled over the whitewash – with the try awarded to Schatz – with Harris's conversion leaving the scores at 28-12 but the Highlanders had the bit between their teeth.
Ben Smith's long pass wide put Buckman over and the first penalty of the game, from Hayden Parker after the hour mark, had the Kiwi side back in contention at 28-17.
Harris replied with a three-pointer but Osborne's intercept try from inside his own 22 brought the Highlanders within striking distance.
With full-time looming large, Tanaka leapt over the top of a ruck NFL-style to touch down. Parker's conversion levelled matter as the Brisbane crowd looked on in disbelief.
Genia's 100th appearance for Queensland would end on a happy note though as Schatz powered over next to the posts to end off an attack that spanned 55-metres.
Tries: Browning, Davies, Shipperley, Schatz 2
Cons: Harris 4, Genia
Tries: Sopoaga, Buckman, Osborne, Tanaka
Cons: Sopoaga 2, Parker 2
Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Dave McDuling, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Chris King, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)