Johannesburg - The Reds took control in the second half to secure a 30-25 win over the MTN Lions in a Vodacom Super Rugby southern hemisphere championship clash at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Lions led 14-10 at half-time but failed to capitalise fully on their Australian opponents having to play for a total of 20 minutes with 14 players after two of them were sent to the sin bin for separate offences.
The Reds looked easily the more cohesive team in the second period, with flyhalf Quade Cooper orchestrating a series of attacks on the Lions line, as they stayed top of the Australian conference.
The only blot on Cooper's performance was that he missed two early penalty attempts at goal but fullback Mike Harris took over and landed six out of six, converting all three of his team's tries and kicking three penalty goals.
By contrast, veteran flyhalf Andre Pretorius was successful with only four of nine kicks at goal.
Prop James Slipper was yellow carded after just six minutes for a dangerous tackle on Lions hooker Bandise Maku.
He had been back on the field for only eight minutes when Reds captain, lock James Horwill, was sent to the sidelines by New Zealand referee Vinny Munro for a professional foul.
"Discipline is something we will have to work on - we can't afford to have two yellow cards," said Horwill. "But the boys dug deep in the second half."
The Lions led 11-0 through a try by fullback Michael Killian, following a well-timed inside pass by centre Waylon Murray, and two penalty goals by Pretorius.
But the Reds fought back late in the half with a try by left wing Luke Morahan, who was put into space by Cooper, and a conversion and penalty by Harris.
Another Pretorius penalty shortly before half-time followed by a solo try by replacement fullback Jaco Taute immediately after the break put the Lions nine points ahead.
But the momentum shifted dramatically to the Reds as Cooper ghosted his way through the defence for a try, converted by Harris, who then landed two long-range penalty goals in quick succession as the visitors went ahead for the first time.
Digby Ioane made up for his earlier error when he barged across the try line from close range and the Lions needed a late, long-range penalty from replacement Rory Kockott to secure a bonus point.