The Western Force beat the Melbourne Rebels 31-22 in their last ever Super Rugby encounter at nib Stadium in Perth, in an exciting Australian derby, which saw seven tries scored.
Marika Koroibete scored twice as the Rebels took a 14-15 half-time lead. Billy Meakes and Adam Coleman scored for the Force as they trailed by one.
But the home team came out firing, scoring through Richard Hardwick and Chance Peni, opening up a 31-15 lead after 53 minutes.
Colby Fainga’a scored with 20 minutes remaining, offering hope to the Melbourne side, but they could not break their opponent’s try line again, going down by nine.
Reece Hodge kicked an early penalty before Peni was yellow carded for a reckless challenge in the sixth minute.
Soon after, Meakes, who was used as a battering ram, scored the game’s first try.
From a lineout, Richard Hardwick stepped to the right and put Isi Naisarani, on an angled run, through the gap. The No 8 charged into the 22 and passed on his outside shoulder to Meakes to score.
Peter Grant’s conversion made it 7-3 as the Force took charge, despite being a man down.
On 22 minutes, Koroibete scored his first try. Amanaki Mafi broke from deep inside his half and played the supporting Koroibete. The wing then played a one-two with Hugh Sinclair before running away to score.
Hodge added the extras to put his side back in front. The game was played in good, dry conditions, but both teams struggled to control the ball, making silly errors in offloads and dropping easy passes.
Just before the break, Coleman crashed through two defenders after some pressure on the visitor’s line.
However, the Rebels hit back on the stroke of half-time with Koroibete getting his second.
Jackson Garden-Bachop made the initial break, freed the wing before passing to Mitch Inman on his inside. Inman races clear, but Koroibete continues his run, comes back in-field and is played in by the centre
Inman raced clear before giving the ball to Koroibete, who cut inside to support the centre, gathered the pass and was away for the try. Hodge missed his conversion attempt, but the Melbourne team had the lead.
Grant’s 43rd-minute penalty gave his side a lead that they would not relinquish.
All the momentum inside the third quarter was with the home team. Hardwick scored his side’s third try on 49 minutes.
The flanker picked up from close range, swivelled and dotted down. The Force went 12 phases, marching the rebels back before the dam wall broke.
Soon after, Peni found his way over the whitewash. The Force went another dozen phases, bashing through Rebels defenders, offloading, popping inside and out, before a long pass to the returning wing, who cut inside two defenders to score, sealed the game.
Fainga’a scored with 20 minutes remaining after some smart play by Garden-Bachop opened the space for the flanker.
The Rebels continued to attack but could break the Force’s defence again.
Final Score: Force 31 (14) Rebels 22 (15)
Tries – Meakes, Coleman, Hardwick, Peni
Pen – Grant
Con – Grant (4)
Cards – Peni (Yellow, 6th minute)
Tries – Koroibete (2), Fainga’a
Pen – Hodge
Con – Hodge (3)
Referee: Will Houston
Assistant Ref 1: Damon Murphy
Assistant Ref 2: Graham Cooper
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore
15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Chance Peni, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman (captain), 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jono Lance, 23 James Verity-Amm.
15 Jonah Placid, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Murray Douglas, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Fereti Sa’aga, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Jack Maddocks