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Reds stun Sharks; Chiefs edge past Highlanders

QUEENSLAND'S decision to abandon its traditional safety-first approach for a more adventurous but riskier style paid off yesterday when the Reds beat the Sharks 25-13 in Brisbane in the Super 14 competition.

The Reds were given little hope of beating the previously unbeaten South Africans but came out deserving winners after a free-flowing match.

Lock Adam Byrnes and replacement Will Genia scored first-half tries as the Australians opened up an 18-6 lead at the break.

The Sharks gave the home fans at Lang Park some nervous moments when No. 8 Ryan Kankowski crossed 15 minutes from the end and Rory Kockott added the conversion to his two first-half penalties.

But Queensland kept pushing ahead and was rewarded with a late try to Digby Ioane that sealed the win.

"It was a gutsy effort, especially in defense in that second half," Queensland skipper Berrick Barnes said in a post-match interview. "I was really proud of the boys ... they were outstanding, they did a lot of hard work this week."

The Durban-based Sharks started the season with four straight wins and will remain in third place in the standings despite the loss. The Reds improved to 2-3 and moved into mid-table.

Elsewhere yesterday, the Waikato Chiefs edged the Otago Highlanders 14-10 and Western Force rallied to draw 23-23 with the Canterbury Crusaders.

In Ivercargill, Lelia Masaga's brilliant individual try sealed the win for the Chiefs.

Masaga beat four defenders as he charged down the touchline to put the visitors in front for the first time, 14 minutes from the end of the all-New Zealand clash.

The Highlanders had made the perfect start when winger Fetu'u Vainikolo scored off a set move after just 15 minutes and Daniel Bowden converted from the touchline.

However, the Chiefs leveled at 7-7 by halftime when flanker Tanerau Latimer scored and Stephen Donald converted in a scrappy, low-scoring clash.

Otago regained the lead when Bowden kicked a penalty midway through the second half only to fall behind through Masaga's individual magic.

In Christchurch, the Force clawed their way back from a seemingly hopeless position to earn a draw with the once-unbeatable Crusaders.

The Australians looked to be down and out after conceding tries to Ryan Crotty, Tim Bateman and Isaac Ross in the first half an hour to trail 6-20 at halftime.

But the Crusaders, no longer the side that dominated the competition for the past decade, failed to hold on to their lead and ended the match defending grimly, relieved to have escaped with a draw in a match they would normally have won.


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