A milestone double to try-scoring forward Scott Higginbotham has delivered the Queensland Reds a thrilling 29-28 Super Rugby win over the Blues.
The nailbiting win, secured with France-bound Higginbotham's second try of the night and a Bryce Hegarty conversion in the 77th minute, ensures the 32-year-old had a victory in his final Super Rugby match for the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.
It also gave captain Samu Kerevi a perfect send-off with the 25-Test Wallaby expected to make a switch to Japanese club Suntory after this year's World Cup.
The fitting farewell looked unlikely with the Reds trailing 21-5 after 23 minutes following a sluggish start but the hosts clawed back the deficit and secured just their sixth win of the season.
Higginbotham's first-half try, following good work by Kerevi and winger Jock Campbell, made him the first forward to notch 40 Super Rugby tries.
His effort came either side of tries to Blues' pair Tanielu Tele'a and Augustine Pulu after captain Blake Gibson opened the scoring after just three minutes.
Taniela Tupou's close-range effort after a mountain of pressure inside the Blues' 22 and a penalty by Hegarty ensured the margin was six points at halftime.
The Reds then hit the front three minutes into the half when Hegarty scored before Pulu's second of the night on the back of a Tupou penalty put the New Zealanders clear again by six points.
A yellow-card to Dalton Papali'i reduced the visitors to 10 men but it wasn't until Papali'i had returned to the field that the Reds swept the ball out to the left wing for Higginbotham to go over for his 41st Super Rugby try.
"He's passionately wearing that jersey as he should with pride and ripping in, two great tries and he brings really good voice to the group," Reds coach Brad Thorn said of Higginbotham.
"It's a great finish for him."
Kerevi batted away speculation over his future after the match, saying his emotional response to the win had more to do with the Reds snapping a 15-game losing streak against New Zealand opposition.
"I hope it's not my last game," Kerevi said.
"I know there's a Wallaby game still to come, so there's plenty more games at Suncorp."
Blues coach Leon Macdonald was left to lament what might have been as his team's slim finals hopes evaporated.
A TMO review to deny a possible third try to Pulu when the Blues led 28-22 midway through the second-half proved crucial in Macdonald's opinion with the officials ruling the halfback failed to properly release the ball after being tackled before diving over the line.
"I just can't see why it wasn't a try," a frustrated Macdonald said.
"Referee found a way, so yeah."
The Reds finish their season next weekend against Australian conference leaders the Brumbies in Canberra.
Australian Associated Press