SYDNEY (Reuters) - The ACT Brumbies got their Super Rugby season underway despite a state of emergency in Canberra on Friday and ran out 27-24 winners over the Queensland Reds.
Australian authorities declared the state of emergency earlier in the day as soaring temperatures and strong whipped up huge, unpredictable bushfires to the south of the capital.
Firefighters who have been battling the bushfire emergency for months were honoured on the pitch before a match that many thought might not go ahead because of the smoke that has choked Canberra in recent months.
The worst of the smoke stayed away but the heat - approaching 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) at kickoff - was intense as the Super Rugby season got underway with the Australian summer still in full swing.
The twice champion Brumbies, semi-finalists last year, scored first when centre Irae Simone crossed in the fifth minute but Brad Thorn’s young Reds side soon hit back when Henry Speight came off his wing to score against his former team.
Fullback Bryce Hegarty kicked a penalty to put the visitors ahead and then crossed for a try on the stroke of halftime to give the Reds a 17-7 lead.
A top-notch finish in the corner from Brumbies winger Tom Wright tied up the scores early in the second half before fullback Tom Banks gathered a pop pass and raced 40 metres around Reds flyhalf Isaac Lucas to put the home side ahead.
Rookie Brumbies flyhalf Noah Lolesio extended the lead with a penalty five minutes from time and a late try from his fellow 20-year-old, Reds number eight Harry Wilson, was only enough for a losing bonus point for the Queenslanders.
There had been concern about the fixture for some time, especially after the Brumbies were forced to move their pre-season camp to Newcastle when bushfire smoke shut down their training camp.
Southern hemisphere rugby bosses SANZAAR issued an air quality policy on Wednesday to help officials assess the effects of bushfire smoke after several other sporting events around the country were disrupted.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Robert Birsel