The St.George Queensland Reds have fallen to a heartbreaking 30-27 last-minute loss to the Melbourne Rebels in a drama-filled Asteron Life Super Rugby clash at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane tonight.
Both teams scored three tries in the hard fought encounter with the decisive moment coming in the 79th minute with a controversial penalty goal to Rebels fullback Jason Woodward, after Reds’ replacement lock Ed O’Donoghue was red carded for foul play.
Reds coach Richard Graham said the team fought throughout the match to get the result, but defensive lapses cost them.
“I thought we showed great character and determination to give ourselves an opportunity to win late in the game,” Graham said.
“At times our defence was very good, but we had three lapses and that allowed the Rebels scoring opportunities.
“I thought we could have been better rewarded for the amount of possession we had in their half.
“At the end of the day, we could have got an outcome tonight and the entire group is very disappointed we didn’t.”
Beau Robinson led the team onto the field for his 50th Queensland cap – a remarkable achievement when you consider the Dubbo local moved to Brisbane on nothing more than an offer to train with the Reds, before establishing himself as an integral member of the Reds’ 2011 Super Rugby title.
The Reds had a numerical advantage early on with Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham sent to the bin for a high hit on fullback Mike Harris.
Harris bounced back just a minute later to cross for the Reds opening try. The five-pointer was set-up by a solid drive from a lineout from the Queensland pack.
No.8 Jake Schatz was stopped just short before quick ruck ball and a long pass from flyhalf Quade Cooper saw Harris bust through a tackle of Rebels flyhalf Bryce Hegarty to go over next to the posts. Cooper’s conversion made it 7-0.
Woodward then slotted a penalty for the Rebels to bring it back to 7-3 after seven minutes.
Queensland then suffered a set back as Cooper went off with a shoulder injury a minute later, Ben Lucas coming on at flyhalf. The Reds also lost Ben Daley to a dislocated thumb at the same time, with Jono Owen coming on as replacement.
But the Reds looked like they would go further in front as they gave up several kickable goals and poured on to the attack in Melbourne’s 22 but somehow the Rebels’ defence held.
Then Melbourne counter-attacked and good handling saw them come up with a try to winger Tom Kingston. Woodward, who set-up the try, converting from wide out to put the Rebels in front 10-7.
Lucas did brilliantly to set up the Reds next points on 25 minutes. Running a superb angle he picked up a quick pass from Genia and split the Rebels defence close to the ruck.
Melbourne scrambled but in their desperation they gave up a penalty which Harris, taking over from Cooper, landed from the right of the posts to make it 10-10.
However the Rebels hit back with a try to Burgess on the half-hour mark after the Rebels No.9 somehow found his way to the line after an angled run from the 22.
But the Reds tied it up just a minute before half time with a well-worked five pointer. The try was set up by a scything break from Ben Tapuai that saw the centre pulled down just a metre short.
The ball was quickly recycled and it came to prop Greg Holmes who did well to fight his way over underneath multiple Rebels defenders. Harris’ conversion from directly in front made it 17-17 at the break.
The Rebels were back in front just two minutes into the second half with a breathtaking team try finished off by Burgess. Woodward’s conversion made it 24-17.
The Reds looked sure to go back on level terms on 51 minutes after a passage of sustained attack close to the Rebels line. But somehow Melbourne held firm, first denying centre Anthony Fainga’a who was stopped inches short and then captain James Horwill when he seemed certain to go over under the posts.
The Reds needed a spark and young winger Jamie-Jerry Taulagi supplied it on 64 minutes following up a high kick with a big hit on opposing winger Kingston to win a penalty.
Queensland again passed up the penalty attempt to kick for touch.
A good take at the lineout by Horwill saw the Reds pack drive towards the try-line. They were again stopped short but after numerous phases a flat ball from Genia saw Lucas dive over close to the posts. Harris converted and the match was again tied up 24-24.
Woodward made it 27-24 on 70 minutes with a penalty goal from wide-out on the left as both sides continued to throw caution to the wind as the clock wound down.
Harris made it 27-27 all with an ice-cool penalty from wide out on the right on 75 minutes.
This looked like the final score but the match ended in considerable controversy when O’Donoghue was sent from the field following an altercation with Higginbotham.
Although play had moved on several stoppages from the incident Walsh marched the Reds 50 yards back downfield where Woodward landed the deciding penalty.
The Reds now have a week off before facing the Highlanders on Friday May 30 in Reds Indigenous Round at Suncorp Stadium, their last game before the June Test break.
?Full Time Result? QUEENSLAND REDS 27 (Mike Harris, Greg Holmes, Ben Lucas tries; Quade Cooper conversion; Harris 2 conversions, 2 penalties) lost to MELBOURNE REBELS 30 (Luke Burgess 2, Tom Kingston tries; Jason Woodward 3 conversions, 3 penalties) at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. (Half time: Reds 17 Rebels 17).
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