The St.George Queensland Reds have claimed an incredible 40-38 come-from-behind win over the Brumbies in the Grand Final rematch at Canberra’s GIO Stadium.
The reining premiers burst out of the blocks to lead 17-nil by the 14-minute of play and held an eight-point lead with eight-minutes remaining in what was Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU’s inaugural First Nations Round.
Queensland rallied late however, with a 77th minute Jordan Petaia try from a daring Hunter Paisami kick sealing a stunning two-point win and maintaining the Reds’ unbeaten start to the 2021 season.
Suliasi Vunivalu crossed for his maiden Super Rugby try in the win, while Taniela Tupou and Harry Wilson also scored as Queensland broke a seven-year hoodoo in the nation’s capital.
Head coach Brad Thorn said: “It was obviously a good feeling, we haven’t won here in seven years so they’re always tough games down this way.
“17-nil down, we like to make it hard on ourselves,
“We want to show respect to the Brumbies, they did some good things and we don’t want to take away from them but some dropped balls, offsides, we’ve got to cut that out of our game.
“For the guys, putting those plays together with the pressure of the clock and the score, and then that final play, Hunter backed himself to execute that grubber and Jordy.
“It seemed like it was a good game for the players and the people viewing.”
The hosts claimed an early 17-nil lead courtesy of a Noah Lolesio penalty and a pair of tries to Pete Samu and Folau Fainga'a in front of a strong Canberra crowd.
James O’Connor soon replied with two penalties of his own to cut the Queensland deficit to 11-points by the 22nd minute.
Vunivalu then crossed for his first Super Rugby AU try, the flying winger receiving a neat Harry Wilson short ball off the back of an O’Connor break, before tiptoeing down the sideline to score close to the left-hand corner post. O’Connor made no mistake with the conversion to make the score 17-13 in the 31st minute.
The Brumbies pressed ahead once again minutes later with Samu finding the line for his second try of the night, but O’Connor responded with another penalty to bring Queensland within eight-points at the half-time break.
A second rolling maul try to Fainga'a extended the home side’s advantage in the 46th minute, as the Brumbies started the second stanza in strong fashion.
Queensland were next to score, Taniela Tupou proving unstoppable from close range as the prop bulldozed his way through the defence after a build-up of phases on the Brumbies’ line. O’Connor added his second conversion to make the score 31-23 to the hosts with 18-minutes remaining.
Another Reds try soon followed, with Harry Wilson the beneficiary of a dominant scrum which forced the visitors over the line to score. Another O’Connor conversion brought Queensland within a point of the ladder-leaders in a tight tussle in the nation’s capital.
The Brumbies again managed to wrestle back the momentum, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa streaking down the sideline to score his side’s fifth try and put their lead out to 38-30.
Another O’Connor penalty brought the Reds within five-points with four-minutes to play, before a Seru Uru bust put his side in the Brumbies half and with a shot at victory in the closing stages of the match.
It was Petaia who sealed the win, the centre steaming on to an inch-perfect kick from his midfield partner Paisami, and miraculously grounding the ball to snatch a 40-38 win over the reigning champions.
Queensland return home next round when they take on the Western Force at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday 20 March. Tickets available via https://bit.ly/38wVumz.