BRISBANE, Australia // Will Genia produced a moment of opportunistic brilliance to score a 65-metre try that helped the Queensland Reds to a 18-13 victory over the Canterbury Crusaders and their first Super rugby title yesterday.
With the score tied at 13-13, the Australia scrum-half received the ball 10 yards inside his own half following a turnover. He initially appeared to be boxed in by defenders but quick footwork saw him break free into Crusaders territory.
Genia still had plenty of work to do but a dummy to his outside support as they reached the 22 gave him just enough room and momentum to slide over the line.
"I went to kick it but then I saw a bit of space and backed myself and I didn't think I was that quick to get there, but showed a bit of toe and I'm very happy," Genia said of his match-winning try.
Victory over the seven-time champions means the Reds, who had finished top of the standings, become the first Australian champions since the ACT Brumbies in 2004.
It was a highly emotional day for the Crusaders, who travelled more than 100,000 kilometres during an unbeaten run to the final after the deadly Christchurch earthquake rendered their home ground unplayable in February.
It looked as if they would land their eighth Super rugby crown in their 10th final before the Reds hit back to send a record crowd of 52,113 into raptures.
It was the Reds' third consecutive victory over the Crusaders, who had dominated the Queenslanders for 11 seasons before Ewen McKenzie's men pulled off a 41-20 upset in Brisbane last year.
McKenzie won a Super rugby title at the third attempt after missing out as coach of the New South Wales Waratahs in 2005 and 2008, both times to the Crusaders.
It also represents a stunning reversal in fortunes for the Reds, who were hosting their first Super rugby final after wallowing for so long in the bottom three.
"In the second half we concentrated on using the ball, which is what we do best and we knew that if we held on to the ball that would fatigue them and catch them out," McKenzie said.
Richie McCaw, the Crusaders captain, refused to use his team's nomadic season as an excuse.
"I am definitely proud of the way the guys stuck to the task all year through bits and pieces, but we turned up tonight and we haven't an excuse, win or lose," he said. "We were ready to go and play a final and we weren't good enough.
"I know the team doesn't want to use anything as an excuse, but I was proud that we gave ourselves a chance, but still disappointed to come up second."
The Reds scored two tries to one with Wallaby fly-half Quade Cooper landing a conversion and two penalties from five attempts to finish as this season's Super 15 leading scorer with 228 points.
Dan Carter scored all of the Crusaders points with a try, a conversion and two penalties.
"We knew the Crusaders would just keep coming; they're a quality side," James Horwill, the Queensland captain, said.
"I'm at a loss for words. All year people have doubted us and said we couldn't do it. Well, I think we showed we can. And we did it."