The St.George Queensland Reds have fallen 27-24 to the Brumbies in their Vodafone Super Rugby season opener at GIO Stadium in Canberra.
After trailing 17-7 at the halftime break, the home side ran in the first three tries of the second stanza to open up a 27-17 lead, before a late try to Queensland debutant Harry Wilson almost gave the Reds the opportunity to snatch victory.
Henry Speight, Dane Zander, Hunter Paisami and Seru Uru made their Queensland debuts alongside Wilson in the loss, with Speight also scoring in his first appearance in Queensland colours.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “Well done to the Brumbies. They played the second half really well. They played smart rugby and deserved to win.
“There’s some learnings in that for us. Our guys did well to come back and competed to the end, but it’s a pretty disappointing one to lose.”
An Irae Simone try gave the hosts a 7-nil lead early after an early Brumbies attacking assault, before Speight crossed to even the scores in the 18th minute in front of his former home crowd.
The winger scored under the posts on the back of a sublime Isaac Lucas inside ball from close to the line, the five-pointer making him the first player to score against every Super Rugby team.
Bryce Hegarty kicked his side to a 10-7 lead in the 25th minute, after a scrum penalty gave the fullback a three-point chance from the 22-metre line.
Queensland had their second try on the stroke of halftime, with a 16-phase blitz on the Brumbies line eventually giving Hegarty the space he needed to score after a neat Lucas long ball. The fullback continued his perfect form with the boot to give the visitors a 17-7 lead at the half-time break.
The Brumbies hit back with the first two tries of the second-forty, Tom Wright and Folau Fainga'a crossing to level the scores at 17-all in the 59th minute.
A Tom Banks try gave the home side a 24-17 lead with 12-minutes remaining, before Lolesio stretched their advantage to 27-17 with five-minutes to play through a penalty goal.
Queensland weren’t done yet, with debutant Harry Wilson crashing his way through the defence from close to the line to narrow the margin to three points with three-minutes to play.
The side had the chance to clinch victory in the dying minutes, but were unable to find the line as the Brumbies held on for a narrow three-point win.
Queensland will travel to South Africa next round to take on the Lions in Johannesburg on February 8 at 11.05pm AEST.