The St.George Queensland Reds have ended their ten-year championship drought, claiming the Super Rugby AU title with a come-from-behind 19-16 win over the Brumbies.
Queensland trailed 13-6 at the half-time break and remained four-points behind once the final siren had sounded in a gritty affair at Suncorp Stadium.
But as they have done so many times this season, Queensland continued to press the Brumbies’ line in the dying minutes, James O’Connor eventually breaking through the defence to score his side’s first try of the night and secure an incredible three-point win in front of a crowd of more than 40,000.
O’Connor scored all 19 of the Reds’ points in an assured display, while Reds backrower Fraser McReight was named man of the match in what was Queensland’s biggest crowd at Suncorp Stadium since 2013.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “They did their job.
“We came in the start of the year wanting to just get the job done”
“I’m really proud of these young men, they got the job done, it took 80-plus minutes, as it has done with these two teams for a couple of years now.
“Massive respect to the Brumbies.
“How good for Rugby. In front of 42,000 people to see that sort of epic game that went right down to the wire.
“To me that’s Queensland, you’ve got 40,000 behind you.”
O’Connor kicked Queensland to an early 3-nil lead with a penalty in the second minute, before a Tom Banks try saw the Brumbies secure a 7-3 advantage by the 13th minute.
The Reds looked to have regained their lead with a Feao Fotuaika try following a penalty advantage in the 28th minute, but it was overruled by the TMO. O’Connor chose to take the points from the previous penalty, seeing Queensland go within one-point at 7-6.
The visitors hit back quickly with a penalty of their own to again stretch their lead to 10-7, as the reigning champions continued to dominate possession and field position at Suncorp Stadium.
A second Noah Lolesio penalty on the stroke of halftime extended the Brumbies’ lead to 13-6 at the break.
O’Connor opened the scoring in the second stanza with his third penalty of the night, as stubborn defence from both sides denied a number of try scoring opportunities.
Rob Valetini was shown a yellow card in the 60th minute to reduce the visitors to 14-men, with a fourth O’Connor penalty two minutes later bringing Queensland within one-point at 13-12.
Lolesio hit back with a three-pointer of his own, giving the Brumbies a 16-12 lead with 10-minutes on the clock.
With their domestic season on the line, Queensland peppered the Brumbies line phase after phase, before another yellow card again reduced the Brumbies to 14-men with Darcy Swain sent from the field in the 77th minute, with Luke Reimer also then yellow-carded for repeated infringements.
With the siren sounded, it was O’Connor who broke through for the Reds, the flyhalf slicing through the line to claim a memorable 19-16 victory in front of a huge Queensland crowd.
The Reds are back in action next week for Round 1 of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman when they take on the Highlanders in Dunedin. Queensland return home to face the Crusaders on 22 May at Suncorp Stadium in a battle between the premiers from across both sides of the ditch. Tickets available https://bit.ly/3uxn3oT
St.George Queensland Reds 19
Penalties: O’Connor 4
Penalties: Lolesio 3