France-bound Higginbotham scored in either half in his final match for the Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Friday to ensure a victorious send-off for captain Samu Kerevi, who is being widely tipped for a move to Japanese club Suntory after this year’s World Cup.
Higginbotham’s first-half try came on the back of some Kerevi brilliance and made him the first forward to score 40 Super Rugby tries.
The victory appeared highly unlikely after the Blues charged to a 21-5 lead after 23 minutes.
The Reds recovered from their dire opening 20 minutes to turn the tide of the match and closed within nine points when Taniela Tupou, who’d been denied a try earlier in the half, crashed over following a mountain of pressure inside the Blues’ 22.
Hegarty’s penalty on the stroke of halftime made it 21-15 to the Blues at the break.
The Reds fullback then crossed for his fifth try of the season at home to put the hosts ahead for the first time in the game.
Pulu’s second on the back of a Tupou penalty put the New Zealanders clear again by six and the Blues halfback thought he had a hat-trick only for a video review to reveal he’d failed to properly release the ball after being tackled by Reds’ winger Filipo Daugunu before jumping up to dive over the tryline.
The Blues’ then went down to 14 men when Dalton Papali’i was shown a yellow card in the 66th minute when referee Brendon Pickerill lost patience with the number of infringements by the visitors.
While the Reds failed to take advantage of their opponents being a man down, they kept coming and claimed their sixth win of a difficult campaign.
The out of contention Reds finish their season against the Australian conference-leading Brumbies next Saturday in Canberra.
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