Brisbane City have secured a spot in the National Rugby Championship (NRC) finals after a nail-biting 24-21 win over the Melbourne Rising at Easts Rugby Union Club.
City raced to a 24-nil lead after a strong first-half, before the Rising dominated field position and possession for almost the entirety of the second-half to cut the deficit to just three points with minutes to pay.
Two yellow-cards saw the hosts reduced to 13-men in the final stages of the game, however City continued to hold strong, with some incredible goal-line defence stamping their ticket to the finals for the first time since 2015.
The side will look to quality for the Grand Final next weekend when they travel to Perth to take on the minor premiers the Western Force.
Brisbane City head coach Jim McKay said: "It was a good game. It had everything - certainly a game of two halves.
"We played to the conditions and managed them well and conversely in the second half Melbourne put a lot of pressure on us and we were down to 13 men. The highlight for us was in those two corners when we pushed them out - it was pretty good to see.
"We've been together for nine weeks now and the objective has been to do the best we can and we've landed in the finals and it's a really good achievement for this group.
"We're going to enjoy the week and we're going to go over to Perth and give it everything we've got.
"We know we've got the grit and determination - we just need to polish a few areas and be smart and enjoy the week. It's a great opportunity for the group to go over there and showcase what they can do," said McKay.
After withstanding an early Rising attacking raid, City opened the scoring in the ninth-minute when Teti Tela pounced on a deft Hunter Paisami grubber kick to score in the left-hand corner.
The hosts soon had another try, a pinpoint Nick Chapman kick giving the side a five-metre lineout chance before a dominant rolling-maul sent captain Brandon Paenga-Amosa over the line for his fifth five-pointer of the season.
A stunning individual effort by Isaac Lucas stretched City’s lead to 17-nil in the 35th minute, the flyhalf dashing 75-metres to score after stepping and jinking his way through a number of Rising defenders in his own half.
Sam Wallis was next to score, a neat Bryce Hegarty cut-out pass engineering a Jordan Luke break down the left-hand sideline before the fullback found Wallis on his inside for City’s fourth try. Hegarty added his second conversion to give the home side a 24-nil lead.
A penalty-try gave the Rising both their first points of the match and a one-man advantage with Rhys van Nek yellow carded, as City held a 24-7 lead at the break.
The visitors went on to dominate proceedings in the second-half with a glut of possession in City’s half for much of the second-forty.
The visitors cut the deficit to 10-points early through a Rob Leota try, before continuing to attack the City line for the remainder of the final-forty, as stubborn defence from the home side maintained their lead.
As the Rising continued to attack, City were reduced to 13-men with minutes to play after yellow-cards to Sefa Naivalu and Bryce Hegarty.
The Rising quickly capitalised to break the dogged City defence, a try to Navarre Haisila with 90-seconds to play bringing the score to 24-21.
With their season on the line, the hosts were able to hold on to clinch a win and a spot in the top-four in a stunning defensive showing.City will travel to Perth next weekend to take on the Western Force for a spot in the NRC Grand Final.