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The Queensland Reds have all but snuffed out Melbourne’s Super Rugby finals hopes with an upset 37-23 win on Friday night.
Scrum dominance and dogged persistence delivered the Reds a hard-earned four-tries-to-two victory at Suncorp Stadium, snapping a run of five consecutive defeats.
Jono Lance iced it for the home side with his 74th minute try, which was put on a platter for him by rookie centre Jordan Petaia.
Lance contributed 20 points all up, including three conversions and three penalties.
The Rebels were within a point for most of the second half but failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage when the Reds had Duncan Paia’aua sin-binned in the 57th minute.
Reece Hodge missed a penalty goal attempt that would have put Melbourne in front shortly afterwards.
The Rebels now look at long odds to reach the finals – they need to beat the Highlanders in Dunedin next weekend and may require other results to go their way as well.
Queensland was heavily depleted and lost veteran George Smith (knee) before kick-off but dug deep in the final 20 minutes and struck a rich reward.
A 26th minute penalty try put the Reds 10-3 ahead, but that lead was quickly evaporated with two tries in two minutes from the Rebels in response.
The first was through Angus Cottrell, who finished off a scintillating left-side move that started with Dane Haylett-Petty catching a Reds kick and went through three other sets of hands.
The second was from Jack Maddocks, who spotted an enormous gap and went 40 metres from a standing start to the tryline.
That put the Rebels 17-10 in front but it was all square again in the 39th minute, when Izack Rodda charged down a Maddocks kick, gathered the ball and pumped his fist triumphantly before touching down from close range.
Five minutes after the half-time hooter, Queensland’s continued scrum superiority saw Tetera Faulkner yellow-carded for collapsing and Filipo Daugunu score off the back of the scrum that followed.
Hodge kicked two penalties inside the first 10 minutes of the second half to make it 24-23, but the Rebels didn’t score again.