RUGBY NEWS - The ACT Brumbies withstood a late onslaught to edge a gutsy Queensland Reds 28-23 and clinch the Super Rugby AU title Saturday, solidifying their status as the kings of Australian rugby.
The Canberra side went to the break two points ahead and put the hammer down to stretch their lead to 28-13 before the Reds came storming back to set up a tense finale.
Newly-minted Wallaby Noah Lolesio scored 13 points in the three tries to two victory to deny coach Brad Thorn's young, and fast-improving, Queenslanders a first win in the Australian capital since 2014.
It was the Brumbies' third Super Rugby title - albeit a domestic version after the coronavirus pandemic halted international rugby - following their triumphs in 2001 and 2004.
"It was a huge effort from the boys," said skipper Allan Alaalatoa, whose side were dominant all season.
"But you have to give credit to the Reds. We always knew they were going to come back in the second half and they made it really hard for us.
"I'm really proud of the boys to be able to close out the game," he added.
Although the Reds hadn't beaten the Brumbies in Canberra for six years, they went into the game upbeat after upsetting them 26-7 in Brisbane earlier this month.
But the experience of Dan McKellar's men, Australian conference champions in three of the past four southern hemisphere Super Rugby campaigns, ultimately proved decisive.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a bit again, our ill-discipline was very costly," said Reds skipper Liam Wright.
"But this team has got a lot of fight and I'm incredibly proud of every single one of them. They've put in an amazing amount of effort this season."
Clicked into gear
Despite losing, it was a breakout year for the Reds with their run to the final capping a team rebuild that former All Black Thorn began three years ago.
Lolesio, in his first start since July due to injury, celebrated his call-up to the Wallabies this week by nailing an easy penalty after five minutes to get the Brumbies on the board first.
An offside allowed James O'Connor to level the scores before the Brumbies clicked into gear with a trademark setpiece from the maul that ended with Folau Fainga'a flopping down for a try.
Lolesio converted and the Brumbies took control, dominating possession with Andy Muirhead spinning through three tackles for their second five-pointer and a 15-3 lead.
The game looked to be getting away from the Reds before electric winger Jordan Petaia produced a weaving run and offloaded to Harry Wilson who dotted down.
O'Connor converted then booted a difficult penalty on the half-time hooter to send them to the break trailing 15-13.
But they lost Petaia and lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto to injuries early in the second stanza and the Brumbies capitalised with Tom Banks powering over for their third try.
Lolesio added another eight points from the boot to put them 28-13 ahead.
But the Reds refused to go away and Angus Blyth bagged a try while O'Connor added five points to keep the match alive with the Brumbies soaking up intense pressure to hang on.