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The St.George Reds have capped off their record breaking 2011 season with a Super Rugby Championship after scoring a historic and memorable 18-13 victory over the Crusaders at Suncorp Stadium.
The Reds enjoyed a storybook ending to their premiership campaign with their first title in the Super Rugby professional era coming in front of an all-time record Super Rugby crowd of 52,113.
The breathtaking encounter lived up to the hype with the Reds fighting back from a 7-6 halftime deficit and overcoming a 13-point Dan Carter haul to score two tries to one and raise the trophy for the first time since 1995.
Fittingly it was an incredible solo try from Australian Player of the Year Will Genia that separated the two teams and put the icing on their 2011 season that, with just three losses, re-wrote the history books and re-invigorated the Queensland Rugby community.
“You always dream about what it would feel like to win a championship and when it does happen it’s sort of a surreal experience,” Horwill said.
“To do that in a short amount of time is pretty special, and to be a part of that, it’s pretty cool to be honest.”
It was the hard-fought defensive effort of the Reds which most typified their display and it was the platform Super Rugby Coach of the Year Ewen McKenzie praised post-match.
“We knew it was going to be very intense for the first twenty minutes and it was a matter of not conceding points, which is pretty much what happened, and we knew that we had to could keep pushing through and keep at it,” McKenzie said.
“We were confident across eighty minutes that we had great impact off our bench and we were confident that fatigue would play a role.”
With the Reds suffering a 16-year drought since their last title, McKenzie was confident that capping off the record-breaking season was a win for Queensland Rugby and their supporters.
“I think the team and the organisation deserve some sort of recognition for the journey,” he said.
“It has been a long journey within a very short space of time and the way you get recognition is by winning.”
The Queensland heroes were greeted by a sea of red as they appeared from the tunnel, the atmosphere electric as were the calls of “We Are Red” that reverberated around the stadium.
It was clear from the whistle that this Final was aptly between the two best outfits of the competition; high-class rugby and solid contests at the breakdown keeping the game in the balance early.
As the New Zealand team marked their territory in the Reds half with 76 percent of the ball in the first quarter of the game, the Reds fought hard to repel countless raids on their line, with the game continuing as a defensive stalemate between the two typically offensive forces.
Cooper put the Reds on the board first with a penalty goal in the 32nd minute although the lead was short-lived, as just two minutes later Dan Carter produced a perfect grubber and regather to put himself over the line to bring the score to 7-3.
The opening 40 minutes only saw one further penalty goal to Cooper with the even contest in the balance.
The Reds fought hard to hold out the Crusaders as they raided their line early in the second half with fast-paced phases until burly veteran Brad Thorn finally forced through a wall of Reds defenders to dive over the line in the 46th minute, but in what proved to be a game-saving defensive effort, it was ruled to be held-up.
The New Zealanders still got the first breakthrough in the second half, with Dan Carter converting a penalty in the 48th minute after further pressure on the Queensland line to take the lead to 10-6.
Minutes after Carter converted another penalty, the Reds’ trio of entertainers shone through, the ball shifting from Genia to Cooper to winger Digby Ioane, who burst downfield and stepped around diving fullback Tom Marshall to set the fireworks off for the first time in the match; Cooper’s straight-forward conversion edging the Reds to a 13-10 lead with less than thirty minutes remaining.
True to the blow-for-blow nature of the match, Carter extended his point tally in the 56th minute, hitting back with a huge, nearly 50m kick, to tie up the match in a 13-all deadlock.
Reds enforcer Rob Simmons thought he’d broken the game wide open after an intercept and gutsy run to the try-line before being called back for a knock-on, but it gave the home-side the spark they needed as they started to lift their pace in attack and fight for the upper-hand.
It was Genia who produced the game changing try for the Reds, bursting through the defence and running 65 metres to the try-line, with Cooper an apt decoy in support; the scoreline to 18-13 with just over ten minutes remaining.
“I think I told him I loved him,” Horwill told Genia straight after scoring his try.
The Reds put in tackle after tackle in the nail-biting final minutes, as the Crusaders continued to push at the Queensland defence, but they couldn’t find a breakthrough as the Reds raced to the championship win.
St. George Reds 18 (Digby Ioane, Will Genia tries; Quade Cooper pen 2, con) def Crusaders 13 (Dan Carter try, con, pen 2)
23 JANUARY 2019