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Super Rugby: ACT Brumbies hold on to beat the Reds in Queensland
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The Queensland Reds' hopes of qualifying for the Super Rugby play-offs took another huge blow as they lost 23-20 against Australian rivals ACT Brumbies.
The Brumbies bounced out to a 20-3 lead in Brisbane, and despite the hosts producing a rousing response and dominating the second half, they could not get back on level terms.
After also losing to fellow Australians Western Force last week, it was another damaging defeat against their rivals as the Reds fell nine points behind the Brumbies - who sit on top of the Australian Conference.
Both the Reds and Brumbies now enjoy a bye week and it is clear which franchise go into their recovery the happier as the latter look more in synch after the Reds suffered a fifth defeat in eight.
The Brumbies began the game strongly with a try on eight minutes from second-row Scott Fardy, who pounced on a Quade Cooper fumble five metres from his own line to power over the whitewash. Nic White's conversion made it 7-0 to visitors as they accepted the home side's gift with open arms in Brisbane.
Fly-half Cooper would somewhat make amends by adding three points soon after off the tee following a scrum infringement seen by referee Steve Walsh, but there was more woe to come for the Reds only a couple of minutes later as captain James Horwill was pinged for a ruck offence. It was now 10-3.
The Reds weren't helping themselves as they insisted on kicking what possession they had away, which allowed the likes of Joe Tomane to counter. The Brumbies wing was in great form throughout and at this point was causing the hosts problems, which ultimately led to another three points from White.
Tomane would be rewarded on 31 minutes when full-back Jesse Mogg found him on the right wing, finishing very well before White made it a seventeen-point lead. Fortunately for the Reds they would soon hit back via a driving maul that saw flank Beau Robinson cut the scores to 20-10 at half-time.
White would make it a thirteen-point ball-game four minutes after the turnaround following illegal scrummaging from the home side and it was clear that the Brumbies would look to calm matters in the second-half, seemingly confident the Reds didn't have enough in their arsenal to hit the front.
The Reds would threaten to prove that wrong and did have opportunities to cross when Chris Feauai-Sautia and Will Genia went close to scoring within one minute of each other before Rod Davies coughed up the ball five metres from the line on 58 minutes. However, the biggest blunder was yet to come.
Cooper was the man to miss a great chance to cut the gap when he went over the whitewash from a set-move only for Tomane to put in a try-saving tackle that saw the fly-half spill possession. Luckily for the Wallaby playmaker, a try from Ed Quirk off a dominant scrum spared his blushes somewhat.
Hope of a comeback win was further enhanced with ten minutes remaining when Cooper landed three points from 40 metres to make it 23-20, but the away side held on to put the pressure on the chasing Waratahs, who face an in-form Western Force side at nib Stadium in Perth on Saturday.