The St.George Queensland Reds have fallen 28-23 to the Brumbies in the Super Rugby AU Grand Final in Canberra.
The home side raced out of the blocks to lead 15-3 early, before Queensland hit back to trail by just two-points at the half-time break.
The Brumbies again started strong in the second half, securing a 28-13 lead, but the defiant Queensland side responded for a second time to cut the hosts’ advantage to just five-points with 15-minutes to play.
Queensland had the chance to snatch victory in the final minutes, but were unable to find the line as the Brumbies held on to be crowned the inaugural Super Rugby AU champions.
Harry Wilson and Angus Blyth crossed for Queensland’s two tries, while Taniela Tupou was named the Super Rugby AU Most Valuable Player after a superb season in the front row.
Head coach Brad Thorn said: “Credit to the Brumbies, they got the result and that’s fantastic for them and their home crowd there.
“We’re obviously disappointed, we came down here to get a job done and we came close but didn’t get there.
“Aside from that, I’m proud of everyone involved in Queensland Rugby, the team, the staff.
“The guys showed what they’ve shown all the way along which is their ticker, their resilience and determination to get back into the game.”
The Brumbies opened the scoring early through a Noah Lolesio penalty, before James O’Connor replied with a penalty of his own to even the scores at 3-all in the 13th minute.
The hosts had the first try of the night soon after, Folau Fainga’a finding the line courtesy of a trademark Brumbies rolling maul from five metres out. Lolesio converted to give his side a 10-3 lead after 18-minutes of play.
Andy Muirhead extended the Brumbies’ lead to 15-3 with a try in the 27th minute, as handling errors and ill discipline plagued the Reds’ efforts in the opening half.
Queensland responded with their first try in the 30th minute via a piece of Jordan Petaia brilliance. The winger sliced through the Brumbies’ defence from 40-metres out, before streaking away and finding the eventual try-scorer Harry Wilson on his inside with a deft flick pass. O’Connor made no mistake with the conversion to cut the Reds’ deficit to 15-10.
A second O’Connor penalty goal kicked the Reds to within two-points of the lead on the stroke of half-time, as the hosts headed to the sheds with a slender 15-13 advantage.
The Brumbies started strong once again in the second forty, with a Tom Banks try and a Lolesio field goal stretching their lead to 25-13 by the 45th minute.
Filipo Daugunu was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle in the 50th minute, before Lolesio extended his side’s advantage to 28-13 with a penalty goal four minutes later.
O’Connor brought Queensland back to within two converted tries of the lead with his third penalty goal of the night in the 58th minute.
With 16-minutes to play, Angus Blyth had Queensland’s second try off the back of a stunning Tate McDermott bust. After piercing the defence from 20-metres out, the scrumhalf was brought down close to the Brumbies’ line and placed the ball back, before Blyth pounced on the crumbs of a fortunate Liam Wright kick to score his first try of the season. O’Connor converted to bring the Reds within five points at 28-23.
The Reds had the opportunity to steal an unlikely victory in the final minutes, but were unable to break through the stubborn Brumbies defence as the hosts held on the claim a five-point win and the title.