The St.George Queensland Reds have sealed a second-place finish on the Buildcorp Super W table, posting a 24-12 win over the Brumbies in Canberra.
In a fast-paced and physical affair, the Reds scored three tries to the hosts two, booking another encounter against the Brumbies in a home two-v-three playoff final next week.
Ivy Kaleta, Okeroa Manihera and Shannon Mato all crossed for tries in the 12-point win, while captain Lori Cramer was in perfect form off the tee, slotting all three conversions and a penalty for the side.
Head coach Moana Virtue said: “Today was a tough test against a strong Brumbies outfit, they pushed us the entire 80-minutes.
“There’s still a lot for us to work on across the park, but we’ll take the win and the home semi-final.
“Our discipline and error rate was really disappointing today, we let them have a lot of ball in that second half, so possession is something that we will have to improve upon if we want to win the title this year.
“It was great to see Sarah Riordan get a start after a long injury lay-off, and I thought she had a solid game, Shannon Mato played effectively as well.”
A Cramer penalty kicked Queensland into a 3-nil advantage in the 15th minute, before the home side hit back with a try to Ema Masi to take their first lead of the match.
Resolute Brumbies’ defence and handling errors limited Queensland’s attacking opportunities for much of the remainder of the first half, until Shannon Mato charged her way through the defence and found Ivy Kaleta with a deft offload for the hooker to score on the stroke of halftime. Cramer converted to give her side a 10-5 advantage at the half-time break.
Okeroa Manihera gave Queensland the perfect start to the second stanza, busting over from short range to score, with Cramer’s second conversion putting the score out to 17-5 at the 41-minute mark.
Mato was next to score for the Reds, the backrower proving unstoppable from close range to force her way over and extend the Queensland lead to 19-points in the 52nd minute.
Despite some solid Queensland line defence, the home side broke through for their second try in the 67th minute through Masi, who completed her brace to cut the Brumbies’ deficit to 12-points.
Masi’s try was the last of the game, as Queensland ran out 24-12 winners to seal second spot on the ladder.
The Reds will again face the Brumbies in next weekend, with the winner advancing to the Super W Grand Final against the Waratahs.
“We know from today that the Brumbies will be a very tough opponent, and we will have to improve in a lot of areas if we are to beat them next week,” Virtue said.
“The opportunity to make a Grand Final is a special one, but we can’t think that far ahead. We’ll prepare and get the bodies ready for another battle next week.”
Further match details for the two-v-three playoff final will be announced during the week.