The Queensland Reds have secured a thrilling come-from-behind 29-28 victory over the Blues at Suncorp Stadium to end a three-year drought against New Zealand sides in Super Rugby.
Queensland trailed by as much as 16 and then by six points in the final five minutes, before a Scott Higginbotham try and Bryce Hegarty conversion in the 77th minute sealed a one-point victory for the hosts in their final home game of 2019.
Higginbotham crossed for two tries in his final match at Suncorp Stadium, while Hegarty bagged a personal haul of 14-points in the dramatic win.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “We got the job done. We fought it out and found a way to get that result.
“They got there in the end. They made it happen. There’s a difference between losing and making it happen and getting the win. We’ll get belief out of that.
“It’s a grind. You’re pouring your heart out. We’re consistently turning up. We’re fighting. We’re not going away. It’s not pretty, but it’s a given in the maroon jersey – you fight until the very end,” said Thorn.
The visitors opened the scoring with two answered tries in the first 17 minutes through Blake Gibson and Tanielu Tele’a for an early 14-nil lead.
Queensland hit back in the 20th minute through Higginbotham, who crossed after Samu Kerevi found a flying Jock Campbell with a well-placed flick pass, before Campbell linked with the veteran backrower who dashed 30-metres down the sideline to score his 40th Super Rugby try – the most by a forward. Hegarty missed the tough conversion to bring Queensland within nine-points at 14-5.
The Blues quickly found the line for their third when Augustine Pulu crossed and Black made no mistake with the conversion to stretch his side’s lead to 21-5.
Queensland scored next through Taniela Tupou after the prop bulldozed through the Blues defence to notch his fourth Super Rugby try of the year and reduce the Reds deficit to nine. Hegarty converted to make it 21-12 after 33 minutes of play.
Hegarty added a penalty goal in the final seconds of the opening half to bring Queensland within six-points at 21-15 at the break.
The Reds hit the lead for the first time of the match early in the second half through Hegarty. Scott Malolua sparked a break close to the halfway line, before the scrumhalf combined with Matt McGahan who calmly put the flyhalf over to score. Hegarty slotted the conversion from the left-hand sideline to give the Reds a one-point advantage at 22-21.
The Blues replied just minutes later to regain the lead when Pulu dived over for his second try, before Black continued his perfect form with the boot to put the score out to 28-22 with 30-minutes remaining.
Dalton Papali’i was shown a yellow-card in the 66th minute to give the Queenslanders a one-man advantage and it looked as though Queensland would not make the most of his absence, before Higginbotham found the line for his second.
The number-eight crossed on the back of a series of slick passes from the Reds’ backline, with Duncan Paia’aua throwing the final pass of the sequence to put the veteran over. Still trailing by one-point, Hegarty stepped up and coolly nailed the clutch conversion from out wide to give the Reds a 29-28 lead heading into the final three minutes of the match.
Attacking in the Queensland half, the visitors had the chance to steal victory at the death, before Liam Wright snatched a turnover to seal a dramatic one-point victory for the Reds.