QUEENSLAND Reds fought back from 26-14 down to match the Blues in the try count but not on the scoreboard, losing their trial match 26-24 on Friday night.
Both Super 14 sides scored four tries but the visitors missed with a last-minute conversion attempt that would have secured a draw.
Reds coach Phil Mooney was satisfied with the result, seeing enough progress despite some rustiness certain facets of play.
“The signs are very promising,'' Mooney said.
“If we limit the turnovers we'll be much better.''
Reds fly-half Quade Cooper reveled in his return match, threatening the defence almost every time he had the ball.
He was happy with his first game back and said he couldn't wait for the competition to start.
“We've stepped up another level on last year, you could see out there today how far the boys have come compared to this time last year.''
After a fumbling opening by both sides the Blues were first to score when full-back Paul Williams capitalised on some missed tackles inside him to cross in the corner.
As well as being over-anxious with their passing, the Reds also overdid the kicks, several times putting the ball out on the full.
The bright signs began to emerge midway through the half when Cooper's passing became more precise.
He put Braid into a gap with a pinpoint pass and then followed that with another to wing Digby Ioane that caused trouble for the defence.
Cooper finally opened the scoring himself when he wrestled his way over the line after a jinking run and then a deft Cooper chip kick gave Anthony Faingaa a try under the posts.
Cooper's second conversion gave the Reds a 14-7 half-time lead.
The Blues tied it up again just after half-time when the Reds were a man down, captain Greg Holmes yellow carded for what referee Garrett Williamson decided was one team foul too many.
Giant back-rower Jerome Kaino crossed and Michael Hobbs converted.
Wing Rene Ranger put the Blues into the lead with a try when the Reds were back to full strength and Taniela Moa scored their fourth to put them out to 26-14.
Reds No.8 Leroy Houston pulled one back when he followed a jinking run by replacement wing Blair Connor but Cooper's conversion attempt was wide.
Some alert work by the Reds backs gave Connor room to again show his pace and evasive skills to cross for the final try of the match. However the conversion attempt by Ben Lucas missed and the Blues prevailed. http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,24985502-5002381,00.html