They did things the hard way in coach Nick Stiles’ first game in charge, conceding a try in the first minute and having two players sin-binned in the second half at Suncorp Stadium.
James Tuttle gave them the lead with 10 minutes to go, scoring their fourth try of the game. But they had an anxious finish after losing Karmichael Hunt to a yellow card five minutes from time.
Wallabies powerhouse Samu Kerevi scored two second-half tries for the home side, continuing his excellent form from last year.
Quade Cooper endured a tough night on his return, his error in the opening minute allowing Jean-Luc du Preez to score a try and then missing with three of his six kicks at goal.
Tuttle’s first Super Rugby try came when he capitalised on a surging run from centre Duncan Paia’aua.
There was still chance for the Sharks to snatch victory, though, when Hunt was yellow-carded for a high hit on Lwazi Mvovo. Playmaker Pat Lambie, though, having nailed his first six shots on goal, missed with his final attempt.
Kane Douglas was the first Reds player sin-binned, going off for tackling prop Tendai Mtawarira around the neck midway through the second half.
While he was off the field the visitors went six points up through Tera Mtembu’s try.
Stiles said it was a good lesson for the Reds to learn, having fought hard for the victory.
“I just think the most important thing was how tough the boys were,” he added. “There’s no way we would have won (that game) in the last few years.
“To win those tight games and show character like that, it’s what you build success off.”