Phil Mooney's Reds got their 2008 Super 14 campaign off to a winning start, much to the delight of a large Suncorp Stadium crowd, beating the Highlanders 22-16 in a tense affair in Brisbane on Friday.
The Reds, bottom of the pile on the 2007 standings, showed that under their new coach, Mooney, they will be more than a handful.
The Highlanders might be aggrieved by some undue influence from the match officials.
But aside from some of the puzzling decisions by the match officials - including two very dubious Television Match Official calls - the Reds were full value for the win.
They showed a greater urgency to play with the ball in hand and gone was last year's drab, forward-orientated approach.
In the second half the Highlanders pack seemed to get the upper hand, as the Reds tired, but a 12-3 half-time lead proved to be just the buffer they needed.
The other feature of the match was that without All Black stars like Carl Hayman and Anton Oliver, the Highlanders scrum was not nearly as dominant as in the past.
But the visitors from New Zealand also showed more than enough endeavour and spirit, especially in the second half, to suggest they are not going to roll over and become cannon fodder - as some pre-season predictions suggested.
There was an early rush from the Reds, after some strong running by wing Clinton Schifcofske - who was a constant threat on attack - and the ball carried on by hooker Stephen Moore. Fellow wing Digby Ioane was bundled into touch almost on the corner flag and the TMO ruled that 'no try' was scored.
But the Reds had shown clear intent in the opening 10 minutes.
And they were duly awarded for their endeavours in the 16th minute, when captain John Roe barged his way over the line from close range. But the try was set up by a brilliant run from Ioane, who also looked full of running.
Schifcofske added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
The Reds wing, Schifcofske, stretched his team's advantage to 12 points - but his try will evoke a lot of debate in the aftermath. From a strong run the Reds wing was stopped just short, but with the help of his teammates drove over the line.
The call went to the TMO and while TV replays suggested the ball landed on a Highlander's leg, the TMO still awarded the try. The conversion attempt failed to find the target, but a 12-0 the Reds looked good.
The Highlanders seemed to get a wake-up call from the last score and enjoyed a long period of dominating both possession and territory, but one or two calls went against them and stopped them from finishing the opportunities they created.
The visitors finally got some reward for their endeavours, when flyhalf Daniel Bowden slotted a penalty - after the Reds went offside right in front of their posts.
That is how it stayed till half-time - 12-3 to the Reds.
After the break the Highlanders came out firing and pinned the Reds back deep in their own half, with the home team made to defend for almost 10 minutes.
The reward eventually came for the Highlanders, as Bowden slotted his second penalty in the 56th minute to make it 12-6 in favour of the Reds.
The match officials again conspired to give the Reds a dubious try in the 61 first minute. As with the first-half score by Schifcofske, the call went to the TMO - who advised referee Marius Jonker that the TV footage was "inconclusive".
Jonker, in his wisdom, then decided he had in fact seen a try and awarded it. The conversion made it 19-6 to the Reds.
However, the Highlanders pulled three points back, a Paul Williams penalty, soon afterwards and the game remained in the balance at 19-9 to the Reds.
The Highlanders continued to bash away at the Reds and their reward came in the form a Reds mistake at a line-out five metres from their own line. As the ball went loose, Highlanders No.8 Adam Thomson pounced for a try. Mike Delany took over the goal-kicking duties and slotted to conversion to narrow the gap to just three points - 19-16 - with six minutes remaining.
There were more heart-stopping moments after this and with two minutes remaining Berrick Barnes missed a drop-goal attempt .
With time up on the clock Schifcofske kicked a penalty to seal the win.
Man of the match: There were some good work from Highlanders such as Jimmy Cowan and captain Jason Macdonald. However, the Reds produced most of the action and excitement, with Chris Latham, Digby Ioane, Clinton Schifcofske and John Roe doing stirling work. However, our award goes to Ioane for his bustling running, which set up at least one try and several other opportunities.
Moment of the match: Clinton Schifcofske sealed the win with his 80th minute penalty, but the score that caused the biggest stir was Highlanders No.8 Adam Thomson's 74th minute try - ensuring that there was a dramatic finish to the game.
Villain of the match: We are tempted to give it to the match officials, who seem to get things wrong, despite the wonderful technology at their disposal. There was also a yellow card to Highlanders prop Jamie Mackintosh for a swinging arm tackle. In the end neither influenced the final result, but Mackintosh gets this unwanted prize for his moment of silliness - which could have been a lot more costly.
For the Reds:
Tries: Roe 2, Schifcofske,
Cons: Schifcofske 2
For the Highlanders:
Pens:Bowden 2, Williams
Yellow card: Jamie Mackintosh (Highlanders, 59 - foul play, swinging-arm tackle)
Reds: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Digby Loane, 13 Morgan Turinui, 12 Chris Siale, 11 Clinton Schifcofske, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Sam Cordingley, 8 John Roe (captain), 7 David Croft, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill, 4 Van Humphries, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Sean Hardman, 17 Dayna Edwards, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Leroy Houston, 20 Will Genia, 21 Andrew Walker, 22 Peter Hynes.
Highlanders: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Lucky Mulipola, 13 Niva Ta'auso, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Daniel Bowden, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Hayden Triggs, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Isaac Ross, 3 Clint Newland, 2 Jason Macdonald (captain), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 David Hall, 17 Chris King, 18 Adam Thomson, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Mike Delany 22 Brett Mather.
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Touch judges: Pro Legoete (South Africa), Geoff Acton (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)
Assessor: Andrew Cole (Australia)