Matt Toomua has missed a shot at goal with the last kick of the game that would have pinched Melbourne Rebels an upset win over the Queensland Reds in a penalty-laden Super Rugby AU clash.

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The Rebels accumulated points steadily through Toomua and Reece Hodge and led from the opening minute in a game that featured 32 penalties.

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But two second-half tries to Queensland hooker Alex Mafi salvaged a 23-21 win for the Reds, who watched in glee as Toomua’s last-gasp penalty shot sailed left of the uprights at Suncorp Stadium on Friday evening.

The loss was a brutal one for the Rebels, who only flew into Brisbane on Friday morning and have been housed in Canberra after making a last-minute dash out of Melbourne to avoid a lockdown that would have meant they were unable to enter Queensland at all.

The Reds’ win was their eighth straight victory at home and came despite a red card to prop Feao Fotuaika, who was judged to have caught the head of an opponent in an innocuous tackle with 23 minutes to play.

The game’s final penalty also drew the ire of the crowd, with Hunter Paisami appearing to wrap the ball and upper torso of Frank Lomani.

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But referee Jordan Way was leaving little room for error in a stop-start game which Toomua controlled for all but the final minutes.

He kicked the game’s opening points after just 60 seconds and slotted three more penalties to ensure the rebels led 12-6 at half time.

The Reds, who piled on five tries in a slick win over the Waratahs last week, persevered with their running game and were finally rewarded when Mafi burrowed over in a rolling maul.

He fumbled what would have been a match-levelling try but then barged over in the 76th minute off a scrum, before O’Connor put his side in front for the first time.

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NRL recruit Suliasi Vunivalu’s debut came with 16 minutes to go for the Reds and he almost made an instant impact.

The former Melbourne Storm winger chased a kick and almost got a hand on it before Joe Powell’ s boot narrowly beat him to it.

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