The Queensland Reds will enter next weekend’s Super Rugby AU preliminary final in top gear after a slick 26-7 defeat of the Brumbies on Saturday.

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Guaranteed top spot regardless of the result at Suncorp Stadium, the Brumbies will await the winner of the Reds and Melbourne Rebels in the decider on home turf in a fortnight.

The Reds made sure they left an impression though, the victory coming after two closes losses to the Canberra-based Brumbies earlier this season and built on a quality first half and another supreme defensive effort.

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“You’re pleased about it – good stuff, take some stuff to improve – but it’s a sober sort of mindset of (being ready) next Saturday,” Reds coach Brad Thorn said.

“One minute past the 80 minutes next week is blankness to me; that’s all we care about.

“It is a grand final because if you don’t get the business done you’re not there.”

The Brumbies’ incumbent Wallabies halfback Nic White and emerging Reds star Tate McDermott waged a brilliant first-half battle in one of many jousts for a potential Test jersey later this year.

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James O’Connor was assured again at No.10 for the Reds, while improved fullback Jock Campbell was central to both first-half tries.

He dummied and broke the line, flicking a pass to captain Liam Wright before laying on the assist for Chris Feauai-Sautia as the Reds burst ahead 18-0.

Pete Samu crossed after the siren for the Brumbies to finish the half but the Reds put the clamps on after that, keeping their opponents to one try or less for the third-straight game.

Flicked to the wing to finish the game, McDermott capped the win with a breakaway try as the Brumbies were guilty of poor handling and errant passing.

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In another huge tick for the Reds’ improved defence, they were able to disarm a Brumbies rolling maul that had caused constant problems in both previous encounters.

“I don’t think we weren’t ‘on’, we just made too many mistakes,” Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said.

“Twenty-three turnovers conceded, which is a lot… there was a lot of space out there we created but weren’t good enough to capitalise and they defended well on their goal line.”

A 9,922-strong crowd – the biggest Suncorp Stadium attendance for any code since sport was shut down by the coronavirus – relished the comeback from injury of Hunter Paisami, who produced some thunderous defence when called on in the final 20 minutes.

More will turn up to watch the Reds’ sudden-death clash with the Rebels next Saturday – the nomadic Melbourne outfit sneaking into the playoff courtesy of a last-minute try and conversion to beat the Western Force by four points.

– Murray Wenzel

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