The Brumbies have ended their 16-year title drought with a nailbiting 28-23 victory over a gallant Queensland Reds to claim the Super Rugby AU title side in front of a home crowd at GIO Stadium.
In his first game since 18 July, 20-year-old flyhalf Noah Lolesio put his hand up for the Wallabies number 10 jersey after a stunning display that saw him named man of the match.
The Brumbies had been the best Australian side all year and wasted no time in showing that with Folau Fainga’a and Andy Muirhead scoring to the first two tries to give the home side a 15-3 lead after 25 minutes.
However, the Reds have the big improvers over the season and weren’t about to lie down as they hit back with a try of their own to Harry Wilson and a penalty goal from James O’Connor right on half time brought them to within 15-13 at the break.
The first points of the second half were always going to be important and it was the Brumbies star fullback Tom Banks who broke the line and crashed over to give his side some breathing space at 22-13.
Lolesio then showed his tremendous composure for a young player in the biggest game of his short career, as he nailed a drop goal and penalty goal to give the Brumbies their biggest lead of the night at 28-13 after 54 minutes.
The Reds were also down a man after winger Filipo Daugunu was sin binned for a dangerous tackle and it looked like the Brumbies might run away with an easy victory, but the Reds had other ideas as they staged a late fight back.
Another penalty goal to O’Connor and a controversial try to Angus Blyth (who had the words ‘QLD REDS’ shaved into his hair) saw the Reds pull to within 5 points with 16 minutes still on the clock.
The Brumbies were forced to do plenty of defending in the closing stages with the Reds dominating the territory battle.
However, the Brumbies defence was incredible as they held out the Reds and won a penalty to dig themselves out of trouble.
As Tom Banks kicked the ball into touch to end the game, it was clear how much the victory meant to the Brumbies after a long and challenging season.
The Reds were gallant in defeat but all honours went to the winners as the Brumbies celebrate their first title since 2004.