James O’Connor scored a try five minutes into injury time as Queensland Reds finally found a way past a 13-man Brumbies outfit to seal a remarkable 19-16 Super Rugby AU final win at Suncorp Stadium.
The Brumbies had Darcy Swain and Luke Reimer sin-binned as they somehow clung to a 16-12 lead at the death, having already had Rob Valetini in the bin for 10 minutes earlier in the second half.
They repelled two scrums with just six men in the line-up then incredibly stopped a rampaging Taniela Tupou from a close-range quick tap before the Reds finally spread it and O’Connor slid over to the delight of 41,637 fans.
O’Connor scored all 19 of the Reds’ points while their third comeback win against the Brumbies came despite them leading for just 23 minutes across all three games.
It’s the Reds’ first silverware since they beat the Crusaders for their only Super Rugby title 10 years ago and is a changing of the guard for Australian rugby after the Brumbies beat them in a tight decider in Canberra last year.
“It’s surreal. I’m still processing it,” Reds backrower Angus Scott-Young told Channel Nine. “We like to leave it to the last minute, don’t we? But it shows we have the Queensland spirit in our team and don’t give up.”
The Brumbies controlled the first half, forcing the Reds to make 75 tackles to their 38 as the hosts coughed up possession and failed to find yardage with kicks or any punch with ball in hand.
A Tom Banks try was the only five-pointer to show for it though, the Reds’ denied a reply when Feao Fotuaika was judged to have been held up as he scrambled through feet and jerseys to eventually find the in-goal area.
Penalties kept the Reds close while the Brumbies found three-pointers of their own, targeting winger Jordan Petaia with their kick-offs and daring him to kick.
Brumbies halfback Nic White kept turning the Reds around with his kicking game but the hosts found more ball in the second half, tensions flaring multiple times when play broke down.
The worm looked to have turned when Valetini was sin-binned for a tackle that slipped up on Jock Campbell’s chin in the 60th minute.
But the teams only traded penalties in that period, the Reds instead flicking the switch with five minutes to go when they opted to scrum directly in front.
Player-of-the-match Fraser McReight led the charge, signalling to the crowd for support, and they lifted in an intense final 10 minutes that at one stage saw almost all of the 13 remaining Brumbies piling behind the ball under the posts to defend their line.
The win follows two other tight Reds victories against the Brumbies this season, with the two teams now charged with leading the country’s charge in the Trans-Tasman competition that begins next week.
Reds No.8 Harry Wilson clashed heads with Valetini early in the second half and, visibly shook, played no further part as he was replaced by regular skipper Liam Wright.