The Queensland Reds will be kicking themselves after a horror night with the boot cost them a Super Rugby win against the Highlanders in Brisbane.

The hosts dominated territory and possession, with hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa putting his case forward for a Wallabies berth as the Reds dominated the scrum.

But they couldn’t convert that into points, with poor in-game kicking options costing them in the 18-15 defeat at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

A 78th-minute Lima Sopoaga penalty was the difference as both teams scored two tries in a gut-busting clash.

The Highlanders (7-5) bounced back after a heavy loss to the NSW Waratahs last weekend while the Reds (4-8) are now a distant third in the Australian conference.

“Yeah, I just thought they could control the game better,” Thorn said of his side’s poor kicking display.

“Ideally (the kick goes) 50 metres up the field and into touch would be good … it’s frustrating, it’s just where we’re at.”

The loss completed another eventful week at Ballymore after veteran James Slipper was slapped with a two-month ban for a second positive test for cocaine.

The Highlanders chose to rest All Blacks Ben Smith, Luke Whitelock, Shannon Frizell and Liam Coltman, while Thorn said the second-half introduction of gun Test halfback Aaron Smith was pivotal.

The Reds produced some champagne rugby to open the second stanza, linking from inside their own half with a series of speculative passes.

Queensland then hammered the Highlanders down the middle before Jono Lance and Samu Kerevi offloaded to see Hamish Stewart burst over for a 15-8 lead from a brilliant 20-phase sequence.

The visitors responded, though, dominating the next 15 minutes and defying stiff Reds defence to level through All Blacks loose forward Liam Squire with 20 minutes to play.

Out on their feet, the desperate Queensland defence led by Lance somehow kept the Highlanders out before the late penalty sealed their fate.

The Reds had their chances at the death but failed to find touch on multiple occasions and often kicked into space without any chasers.

Paenga-Amosa pressed his case for a call-up for next month’s Test series against Ireland, though, dominating the scrum for the Reds and scoring a first-half try from a well-executed driving maul.


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