Dave Rennie's Wallabies stocks have taken a beating as the Queensland Reds beat the Melbourne Rebels 25-13 to book their spot in the Super Rugby AU final.
Queensland lost Jordan Petaia (concussion) and Chris Feauai-Sautia (groin) while Rebels trio and Australian regulars Dane Haylett-Petty (groin), Matt Toomua (groin) and Jordan Uelese (shoulder) all limped off in the second half.
All would be in the mix to feature in Rennie's first national squad, due to be named on Sunday ahead of Tests later this year, with the Rebels trio all set for scans and Toomua fearing his injury was serious.
The Reds' backline finished in disarray but they somehow emerged victorious to secure their first four-game winning streak since 2012.
In the end it was hulking prop Taniela Tupou who ran a brilliant line to set up winger Filipo Daugunu for the match-sealing try with five minutes to play.
It sets up a clash with the Brumbies in Canberra next Saturday for the title, the Reds having lost by just three and two points there this season.
And it was extra sweet for Tupou, who had his scrum antics heavily scrutinised by both Rebels and Brumbies camps ahead of the clash.
"Big Taniela, he hates wanting to score that try; imagine being a fullback and seeing that coming," coach Brad Thorn said.
"I know there's a lot of props that would love to be able to do that ... it's pretty special.
"It wasn't one of our best games but you're trying to make a grand final ... to win those kind of tight, niggly games is really good development for the guys."
Centre Petaia looked set for a massive night when he intercepted Toomua's pass to run 65m for the game's first try.
He fumbled close to the line as a second try went begging and was no sooner on the sidelines after a nasty head clash in a tackle.
Roving winger Marika Koroibete caught the Reds napping to score on halftime for a 10-10 game, before Hunter Paisami broke the line to set up Lukhan Salakaia-Loto for the Reds' go-ahead try early in the second half.
Daugunu did his Wallabies aspirations no harm with some terrific defensive efforts, showing his versatility to force a crucial breakdown turnover and nailing another Rebel into touch in cover defence with the game in the balance.
The Rebels had their chances, Billy Meakes' forward pass bombing one try and Isi Naisarani charging down a kick but watching the ball cruelly bounce dead.
Andrew Kellaway should have scored the game's first try but stepped on the line after gathering Toomua's pin-point cross-field chip.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels tipped his cap to a "special player" in Tupou and said those missed opportunities stung after a campaign spent entirely on the road.
"I'm devastated ... but that's what finals are all about (taking chances) so credit to the Reds," he said.
"We've been scrapping our way through all the time ... I reckon it's been the hardest time in rugby but also one of the most enjoyable.
"The connection can really be the making of our club."
Australian Associated Press