The Western Force beat the Reds 26-40 in a game filled with niggle at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
The game see-sawed between both sides in an ill-tempered affair and was still in the balance at 26-23, going into the last 17 minutes.
Eto Nabuli’s yellow card on 66 minutes, saw the Force score 17 points and claim only their third 40-point road win.
Peter Grant was flawless with his boot, kicking seven from seven and claiming a match haul of 18 points.
David Wessels’ side scored four tries (including a penalty try) to run out comfortable winners in the final quarter of the game.
Stephen Moore grabbed a brace, but it was in vain, as the Perth franchise fought back twice, from 5-0 and 26-21 down, to win the Australian derby and make it a third straight win over their illustrious opponents.
The Reds started on fire, with Cooper bossing play with some fancy footwork, slight of hand and excellent kicking. Duncan Paia’aua scored after five minutes.
After camping on the Western Force’s goal-line, the Reds, with quick ball, went wide. Cooper double-pumped and passed the ball, under the covering defender, to Paia’aua who scored in the corner.
Nick Frisby thought he had scored but, some great work from Grant saw the scrumhalf held up over the try-line.
The flyhalf kicked a 28th-minute penalty to get his team on the board; this was the fourth match in a row where the Perth team had not scored inside the opening quarter.
Cooper thought he had scored after Curtis Rona’s strip-tackle freed the ball. Cooper kicked the loose ball and dived on it, over the goal-line. But it was overturned for off-sides by the standoff. It No
It was questionable whether or not the ruck was formed, but the try did not stand. It could be deemed as the turning point of the first-half.
Two minutes’ later, Karmichael Hunt was penalised for a high tackle on Francois van Wyk. Grant kicked the penalty and the Force led 5-6.
The visitors, under Wessels, have upped their game since the threat of closure was touted and like the Southern Kings in recent times, found their mojo.
Some more sustained pressure finally led to the Force’s first try on the stroke of half-time.
Ross Haylett-Petty, who was everywhere, dominating the breakdown, scored to extend his side’s lead.
After sustained pressure from the Force, the flanker picked up at the base of the ruck and dived over; two defenders could not stop him. Grant’s conversion opened up an eight-point buffer as the teams went into the shed.
Whatever Queensland coach Nick Stiles said to his team, it worked, if only for a while. His team came flying out of the blocks.
Frisby picked up Grant’s clearance-kick; starting the play that would end in Lukhan Tui’s try.
The scrumhalf gathered the rolling ball and ran a straight line, through the Force defence and passed to his halfback partner. Cooper shed two tackles and threw a sublime inside-ball to the lock to score.
The 29-year-old Australian standoff added the conversion which brought his team to within a point at 12-13. This was the start of the second turning point of the game.
Just as the Reds’ supporters found their voice, their joy turned to bemusement, then confusion. Michael Ruru dived over a ruck, after some intense pressure on the Reds’ goal-line, to score.
However, he lost the ball forward, so no try. But, referee Brendon Pickerill consulted the TMO for an infringement by Frisby. After some deliberation, it was deemed cynical play and the scrumhalf was sent to the sin-bin.
To add insult to injury, the referee awarded a penalty try. It was soon 12-23 after Grant kicked another penalty; his team were slowly pulling away.
Enter Moore; the Wallaby hooker scored a quickfire double inside seven minutes to give his team the momentum while opening up a three-point 26-23 lead going into the final quarter.
Both scores came from driving mauls from 5 metres out, as Moore, playing in his 175th Super Rugby match, collected his fourth and fifth tries in four matches on the bounce.
On 63 minutes Marcel Brache scored the Force’s third try. It was a wonderful backline move, involving Grant, Billy Meakes, Rona and the fullback, running angled lines and including a dummy-skip behind.
The 32-year-old South African added his second conversion and fifth consecutive kick, to give his team a 26-30 lead, one they would not relinquish.
Three minutes later, Nabuli tackled the flyhalf high and late. The referee and TMO deemed the tackle “reckless” and sent him to the sideline.
This was the end for the home team. Tatafu Polota-Nau, on from the bench, scored after a driving maul.
Adam Coleman collected the lineout and the Force set up a drive. They were halted, initially, but kept their composure and patience, driving twice more, before the substitute crashed over.
Grant made it six from six as the Western Australian franchise piled on the pain against their compatriots.
The crowd was stunned into silence. Grant slotted his fourth penalty – and seventh kick – to put 40 points on the scoreboard for only the third time away from home for the Force.
Final score: Reds 26 (5) Force 40 (13)
Tries – Paia’aua, Tui, Moore (2)
Con – Cooper (3)
Cards – Frisby (Yellow, 44th minute), Nabuli (Yellow, 66th minute)
Tries – Haylett-Petty, Penalty try, Brache, Polota-Nau
Pen – Grant (4)
Con – Grant (3)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 1: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Ref 2: Jordam Way
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore
15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi (captain), 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sef Fa’agase.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Kirwan Sanday, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Lachlan Maranta.
15 Marcel Brache, 14 James Verity-Amm, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Isireli Naisarani, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Mitchell Short, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Luke Morahan.