The Brumbies will go into the Super Rugby finals with plenty of momentum after a 40-27 win over the Reds on Saturday night.
With the Australian conference and a home quarter-final locked up and no ability to move up the log, there was little at stake for the Brumbies but the Canberra side played like a team with their season on the line.
The win is their sixth in a row, their best run in 12 years, and seventh straight at home - a streak that will be intimidating for whichever team meets them in the knockouts in a week’s time.
After a slow start, the Brumbies used their pack to get back on top of the Reds and discipline began to get the better of Queensland, with two yellow cards and a penalty try conceded in the opening half.
The Brumbies had Samu Kerevi’s number as well, doing well to shut down the in-form centre in his final match for the Reds after announcing plans to head to Japan after the Rugby World Cup.
Kerevi wasn’t able to break the line or make the metres he has so often this season and it was the Brumbies that looked the more electric outfit in attack.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said that his side was able to realign after the Reds' fast start was a pleasing sign for them.
"How we regained composure and control and went into half-time 19-10 up, was really good signs because we're going to be under some pressure the next few weeks and we've got to be able to handle it and throw a few counter punches and I thought we did that," he said.
It was a scrappy start on a dewy night in Canberra with neither side able to string many phases together.
The Reds put pressure on the line with a series of pick and go plays and fullback Bryce Hegarty was the beneficiary in the end.
Queensland was putting the heat on the Brumbies across the park, going toe-to-toe with the forwards at set piece time but errors from both sides halted the flow of the game.
It was an error that the Reds pounced on in the 16th minute with Matt McGahan snatching an intercept and crossing but their fortunes dramatically changed in that play.
As McGahan sprinted away from the Brumbies line, Taniela Tupou collected Brumbies captain Christian Lealiifano with a huge hit.
Lealiifano was floored by the tackle and Tupou was sent to the bin after the TMO deemed the hit high, disallowing McGahan’s try in the process.
It was a much-talked about call amid a climate of extreme caution around head-high caution and the reaction of the opposing coaches in itself showed the polarising views on high tackles.
"I've seen incidents that haven't been as bad red carded," Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said.
"What they're dishing red cards out for at the moment especially in and around the 20s, you'd have to think that was around that threshold but I'm just grateful that Christian didn't get seriously injured."
Reds coach Brad Thorn took a
"That’s what it is these days," he said.
"There’s no point me commenting on that stuff, that’s what footy is these days.
"I played in the 90s so I guess I’m an old man now, one of those old men – back in our day we did this.
"You’ve got to be right on your technique there because around that area there’s consequences, that’s how it is."
The Brumbies instantly took advantage of their extra man with winger Andy Muirhead scoring eight phases into a short-range attacking charge.
That was the only score they managed from the 10-minute sin bin period as the Reds’ defence hung tough without Tupou.
Hegarty added some more points as the Reds won a penalty deep in their attacking zone.
Centurion Scott Sio was getting the better of Tupou at scrum time, with the latter becoming visibly frustrated at the number of penalties going against him.
Three consecutive scrum resets yielded the Brumbies’ second try, with Locky McCaffrey toeing the ball towards the line from the back of the scrum and diving on the pill to score.
Queensland were dealt a blow just before half-time after Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was felled in a head clash with teammate Samu Kerevi in the 39th minute and the pain wasn’t quite over with the lock’s exit.
Salakaia-Loto’s replacement Scott Higginbotham was sent to the bin just on the stroke of half-time after collapsing a maul and giving away a penalty try in the process.
Brumbies lock Rory Arnold struck first after half-time had the ball a phase after a driving maul and dragged himself and two Reds defenders over the line.
Winger Tom Wright needed only pace to score next for the Brumbies, capping off close to his best game for the club with a runaway try in the 50th minute.
McGahan took the strange option of slotting a drop goal for the Reds to narrow the margin to 20 points but the Brumbies were well and truly on top.
Duncan Paia’aua, also playing his final game for Queensland before going to France, finished off a nice Jock Campbell break in the 63rd minute to score the Reds’ second.
Murray Douglas and Liam Wright added one try each for their sides in the final 10 minutes in high-scoring encounter.
Kerevi was full of praise for his gritty teammates after his final game for Queensland for the time being.
"It’s been a rollercoaster couple of weeks now with the whole announcement thing, wanting it to be out there earlier but really happy with how the team has gone this year," he said post-match.
"Personally as a captain just try to serve the team as best as I can, especially o the field and off field, it’s a privilege to lead these boys out. Thorny touched on it – the growth they’ve shown the last 12 months, I wouldn’t trade any of them. "
The Brumbies will now await the results of Sunday morning’s two South African derbies to find out who they will host and when they will play their quarter-final next weekend.
Tries: Muirhead, McCaffrey, Penalty Arnold, Wright, Douglas
Cons: Lealiifano 3, Lonergan
Tries: Hegarty, Paia’aua, Wright
Cons: Hegarty 3
Yellow Cards: Tupou (17’), Higginbotham (42’)