Ten months on the sidelines are finally over for James Horwill - but still nothing could prepare the Queensland Reds for his white-knuckle bench stint at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
Horwill has plenty of practice watching the Reds from afar after spending 308 days overcoming hamstring and ankle problems.
However, the Wallabies skipper was still not quite ready for the heart-stopping finale to the Reds' 23-18 Super Rugby win over South African heavyweights the Bulls in front of the 28,399-strong Brisbane faithful.
Horwill watched hopelessly from the bench after his 40-minute comeback cameo as the Bulls not only reeled in a 13-6 halftime deficit by the 49th minute but threatened to snatch a last-gasp victory.
The Bulls looked to have at least locked up the scores when Bjorn Basson crashed over after the siren - only for video replays to show Chris Feauai-Sautia's tackle had forced the winger to put a stray foot into touch.
In the end, an error-riddled Queensland (4-2 record) somehow emerged victorious against the relentless South Africans (3-2).
"Up to a minute and 10 seconds to go in the game, I thought we were doing quite well but that's the way it goes - makes for an exciting finish," Reds director of coaching Ewen McKenzie said.
"But we did enough. The real disappointing part was giving away three stupid penalties just after halftime to let them back into the contest (and lead 15-13)."
Horwill admitted it was tough to watch the thrilling climax but still appreciated a seat after finally blowing off the cobwebs.
"I was blowing, to be honest," Horwill laughed when asked if he had to be stopped from running back out on the field after his allotted 40 minutes.
Reds halfback Will Genia proved the difference in his 65-minute effort in his second game back from a knee injury, while halves partner Quade Cooper finally came out of his shell to help set up a first-half Jono Lance try before scoring his own.
However, two lifting tackles almost had as many tongues wagging.
The Reds held on to a 13-6 halftime lead despite Lance copping a dubious yellow card for a lifting tackle on Bulls lock Grant Hattingh.
But the Bulls were made to pay for winger Grenton Mapoe being sin-binned in the 52nd minute for his tackle on Reds prop James Slipper.
Next minute, Cooper combined beautifully with Genia to exploit their sudden one-man advantage on the left edge and crossed to give the Reds a 20-15 lead.
Neither coach would bite on the decisions.
"That's the game," Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said.McKenzie equalled Robbie Deans' record of 120 Super Rugby games in charge on Saturday night.
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