Ben Tapuai of the Reds. Photo: Getty Images
The Queensland Reds overcame a major second-half scare by the Brumbies to put their Super Rugby title defence back on track with a tense 20-13 Good Friday win at Suncorp Stadium.
It wasn't pretty but it was a win - set up by two first-half tries to Wallabies flanker Scott Higginbotham - which the Reds desperately needed following a horror three-match losing road trip.
Reds v Brumbies
Sam Lane of the Reds takes on the defence during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium on April 6, 2012 in Brisbane, Australia. Photo: Getty Images
Leading 17-0 with 25 minutes left, Queensland just hung on as the Brumbies roared back into the contest when stand-out Reds flanker Liam Gill spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for infringements at the breakdown.
After two penalty goals to Christian Lealiifano, Brumbies winger Joe Tomane set up a nerve-wracking finish when he busted through three defenders to score and close the gap to four points with 10 minutes left.
In the end, rookie five-eighth Sam Lane iced the victory in his debut with a penalty goal from near touch in the last minute to continue the Reds' remarkable record at Suncorp Stadium.
It was the defending champions' 17th win from their past 18 matches at the ground, and puts them two points behind the Brumbies (19) at the top of the Australian conference.
"Suncorp is amazing," Reds captain James Horwill said. "The last three weeks haven't been the best for us but we know the resolve and the character within the group."
The dual selection of ball scavengers Gill and Beau Robinson worked wonders in the first half as the home side dominated the tackle area to grab a host of pilfers and forced a string of penalties.
Fifth-choice five-eighth Lane was unable to convert the pressure into points with two nervous missed goal attempts in the first 23 minutes.
It was a controversial decision by the television match official which finally rewarded the Reds after Rod Davies swooped on a loose ball and combined with Ben Tapuai to send Higginbotham on a tight run to the corner.
It appeared the Wallabies flanker landed on the chalk of the sideline in Nic White's tackle as he planted the ball but the five-pointer was given the nod.
Five minutes later, Lane enjoyed his best moment of the match with a chip over the defence and toe ahead for Davies who then produced a superb flick pass for Higginbotham to lope over.
The Brumbies finally managed to get on a roll when coach Jake White injected mobile flanker Michael Hooper and they started to use the ball. Gill was yellow-carded soon after and the tiring Reds started falling off tackles.
Breaks by White and Pat McCabe threatened the Reds line before Tomane brushed off James Hanson, Ed Quirk and Lane in the 69th minute.
There was little love lost between the teams when rival props Dan Palmer and Ben Daley came to blows in the second half.
QUEENSLAND REDS 20 (Scott Higginbotham 2 tries Sam Lane 2 cons 2 pens) bt BRUMBIES 13 (Joseph Tomane try Christian Lealiifano con 2 pens) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Steve R. Walsh. Crowd: 31,479.