The St.George Queensland Reds have booked their ticket to the 2020 Super Rugby AU Grand Final with a 25-13 win over the Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium.
After a tightly contested first-half, Queensland scored the only two tries of the second-forty and stopped a number of Rebels attacking opportunities to claim a 12-point victory.
Jordan Petaia, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Filipo Daugunu all crossed for tries in what was the Reds’ sixth straight victory at Suncorp Stadium.
The win sets up a Grand Final showdown against the Brumbies in Canberra next Saturday.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “You’re trying to make a Grand Final, it’s do or die.
“It was 10-all at half-time, the Rebels were hanging in the fight, and to win those types of games it’s actually really good development for the guys.
“There’s a healthy competition between the two clubs (the Reds and Brumbies) and there’s been a lot of close ones in the past few years.
“It’s a heck of a challenge and we’ve got a really good opponent who have had a two-week break to study us and work away on their stuff.
“It’s exciting for both sides, it’s a Grand Final and both sides will be going at it,” said Thorn.
After the TMO denied the Rebels the first try of the match, Petaia opened the scoring for Queensland with an intercept try in the eighth minute. The outside centre pounced on a loose Rebels pass, before racing 60-metres to score under the posts. O’Connor made no mistake with the conversion to give his side a 7-nil lead.
A Matt Toomua penalty goal cut the Reds’ lead to four points in the 15th minute, but O’Connor soon responded with a penalty of his own to put the Queensland advantage out to 10-3 in the 24th minute.
The Rebels had their first try on the stroke of half-time, Marika Koroibete finding the line to level the scores at 10-all at the break.
Salakaia-Loto put Queensland back into the lead early in the second stanza, the lock scoring close to the left corner post off the back of a Hunter Paisami break. Paisami pierced the defence close to the halfway line, before linking with Daugunu who found Salakaia-Loto on his inside to score. O’Connor nailed the sideline conversion to give Queensland a 17-10 advantage in the 45th minute of play.
Reece Hodge kicked the Rebels within four-points of the Reds with a 45-metre penalty goal, but O’Connor again responded with his own penalty to make the score 20-13 with 23-minutes to play.
As the Rebels dominated field position and possession, Queensland were forced to absorb a number of attacking raids by the visitors, before Daugunu sealed the win with his side’s third try in the 75th minute. The winger scored courtesy of a Taniela Tupou try assist, with the rampaging prop charging his way through the Melbourne defence thanks to a Bryce Hegarty inside ball and combining with his winger to put the final score out to 25-13.
Queensland take on the Brumbies in the Super Rugby AU decider next Saturday 19 September at 7:15pm AEST at GIO Stadium in Canberra.