Bulls almost pulled it off at the end
The Reds managed to survive a late comeback from the Bulls to edge the visitors 23-18 in Brisbane on Saturday.
It was a dramatic finish to a game off all-sorts - some good, some bad and some shocking - which included two yellow cards.
However, the game could so easily have gone the Bulls' way, had utility back JJ Engelbrecht not put his foot onto a blade of grass with whitewash on it, after the hooter for full-time had gone.
The Bulls, in desperation to steal a late win, launched an attack from inside their own goalline and won two penalties on their way to the Reds' line. In between the full-time hooter had sounded and while the visitors finally managed to work a man over on the left, the TMO found that Engelbrecht's foot had touched the line.
That left the home team with a dramatic and valuable win, leaving the Bulls with only a losing bonus point.
The Reds varied their tactics, using a mixture of short and inside passes, along with the occasional chip-kick to keep the Bulls' defence honest.
Will Genia and Quade Cooper were the puppet-masters pulling the reds strings - creating havoc with the Bulls' defence. Add to that a higher than normal missed tackle count by the visitors and the Reds had the Bulls at their mercy at times.
The breakdown was also a mess, with all-sorts allowed on the ground. While the Bulls did not always get the rub of the green, they certainly showed their intent with brutal defence.
Another aspect that prevented the game from getting real continuity was the large number of unforced errors, with the Bulls in particular spilling a lot of ball when going into contact.
Quade Cooper had an early chance to open the scoring, after Deon Stegmann was penalised at the breakdown, but the Reds flyhalf pushed his attempt wide.
When referee James Leckie found fault with Werner Kruger's bind at a scrum soon afterwards, Cooper made amends by slotting a penalty from in front.
However, when Reds fullback Jono Lance was sent to the sin bin for a spear tackle in the 11th minute, Louis Fouché managed to level it up at 3-all.
The Bulls took the lead in the 15th minute, when James Horwill was penalised for illegal play at a maul.
The referee then ruled that the Bulls caused obstruction at a maul, but Cooper was again wide of the mark.
With the penalty count mounting alarmingly against the Bulls, the visitors had to rely on their defence to keep the Reds out. And when a call finally did go the way of the Bulls, Fouché - from 40 metres out - pushed it just wide to the right of the uprights.
Cooper eventually found his radar, as the penalty count continued to mount against the Bulls at the breakdown - 6-all with five minutes left in the first half.
It was Cooper who set up the Reds' first try, coming soon afterwards after he found space around the edges of a ruck and making good metres before being tackled just short of the line. Jono Lance was on hand to collect the pop-pass and go over. Cooper added the conversion - 13-6. That's how it stayed to the break.
Fouché managed to pull six points back early in the second half - first when Digby Ioane was penalised for obstruction and then when Eddie Quirk went offside.
The Bulls regained the lead in the 49th minute, when the Reds collapsed a maul and Fouché kicked his third penalty in quick succession - 15-13.
This was followed by Lionel Mapoe sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle, another questionable call by match officials.
And that allowed Cooper to dance through the exposed Bulls defence after a line-out and a few phases. He converted his own try - 20-15 after 55 minutes.
Another scrum penalty went against the Bulls soon afterwards and Cooper made the best of another gift - 23-15 going into the final quarter.
With just on 10 minutes left, Anthony Faingaa committed what must have been close to a professional foul right in front of his own posts and replacement Morné Steyn pulled back three points - 18-23.
With time running out, the Bulls had one last throw of the dice - a penalty and a line-out near halfway. They then won another penalty at the breakdown and from a quick tap they went through some phases, before JJ Engelbrecht went over in the corner. However, the TMO found that his foot was into touch.
The Reds had managed to hang on in dramatic fashion.
Man of the match: Will Genia and Quade Cooper pulled the strings - a combination that worked so well for them in the past. Our award goes to flyhalf Quade Cooper, who showed flashes of his old self - especially in the way he exposed the Bulls' defence.
For the Reds:
Tries: Lance, Cooper
Cons: Cooper 2
Pens: Cooper 3
For the Bulls:
Pens: Fouché 5, Steyn
Yellow card: Jono Lance (Reds, 11 - foul play, spear tackle), Lionel Mapoe (Bulls, 52 - foul play, spear tackle)
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Curtis Browning, 20 Nigel Ah Wong, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Mike Harris.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Juandré Kruger, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Jan Serfontein.
Referee: James Leckie (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)