The Force won a scrappy game 26-19 on a hot and humid evening at the Nib Stadium in Perth.
Curtis Rona’s try with 10 minutes to go and Ian Prior’s third penalty put the game to bed.
Tries from Chance Peni and Matt Philip cancelled out Eto Nabuli’s first half double as the teams went into the break at 12-all.
Nabuli’s hatrick was not enough for the Reds, who wilted in the final 15 minutes, after having Sef Fa’agase sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle.
The match was strewn with errors but the home team, found a way to come from 12-19 down in the second half to win by seven, thanks to Rona’s try and Prior’s late penalty, which settled the Australian derby.
In a frantic first half the Force scored early through Chance Peni but a double to Eto Nabuli saw the Reds pull ahead. After numerous errors the Force regrouped with Matt Philip going over to level the scores at 12-12.
The Reds scored first in the second half but the two penalties from Ian Prior and try to Curtis Rona saw the Force take the spoils in a contest that went right down to the wire.
Western Force Forwards Coach Joe Barakat says the gutsy win is a testament to the character of the side and praised the work of some of the team’s youngest members.
“Any win is special but winning at home is extra special,” he said. “It got tough there but the boys dug in and they hung in there right to the final whistle.”
“The character of this group of guys is amazing. We’ve seen that in how they performed tonight with such a short turn around from last week.
“Matt Philip showed tonight that he is up for the challenge and the other young guys like Chance Peni, Jermaine Ainsley and Kane Koteka fronted up and showed just how good they can be.”
The Western Force shot out of the blocks setting the Force Field alight in the second minute with a beautiful set piece move seeing Chance Peni break the line from 35-metres to score. Jono Lance’s conversion attempt struck the post to have the Force leading 5-0.
With plenty of feeling in the contest the two sides got into a bit of push-and-shove through the first 15-minutes before the Reds mounted huge pressure on the Force defence earning numerous penalties.
The Queenslanders eventually made their possession count with Eto Nabuli going over in the left corner following a rolling maul. Quade Cooper failed to convert to lock the scores at 5-5.
A costly turnover in the Reds 22 saw the Queenslanders go in again with Nabuli gathering possession and going more than 80-minutes to score under the posts. The successful conversion handed the Reds a 12-5 lead.
The Force put themselves right back in the contest in the 35th minute when Matt Philip barged over from short range following some heads up play from Ryan Louwrens taking a quick tap. Lance nailed the conversion to level the scores at the half time break.
The Reds drew first blood after the break with Duncan Paia’aua sending Nabuli over for his hat-trick with a well weighted grubber kick. Cooper made no mistake on the conversion taking the lead to seven points.
A massive scrum from the Force pack on the Reds’ feed saw the home side earn a penalty 25-metres from home and Ian Prior did the rest cutting the margin to 19-15 after 50 minutes.
After letting some attacking chances slip the Force secured penalty for a high tackle and Prior nailed the resulting penalty to close the gap to just a single point with 15-minutes to play.
When Reds prop Sef Fa’agase was sent to the bin for a no arms tackle the Force looked to pile on the pressure and just minutes later charged deep into the Reds’ 22.
After sustained pressure the Force backline shifted the ball wide to find Curtis Rona in space who went over for his maiden Western Force try. The unsuccessful conversion left the Force ahead 23-19 after 70-minutes.
With just five minutes remaining the Force went back on the attack putting the Reds under the pump to earn a penalty and Prior again struck true to extend the lead to 26-19.
The Reds hammered the Force line in the closing minutes earning a penalty and taking the tap to go the draw.
With the Sea of Blue roaring behind them the Force defence stood strong to turn the ball over and thump it into touch to secure a thrilling 26-19 win in the club’s opening home match of the season.
Next week the Force travel to Canberra to face the Brumbies while the Reds host the Crusaders in Brisbane.
The Final score is Western Force 26 (12) Reds 19 (12)
Tries – Peni, Philip, Rona
Pen – Prior (3)
Con – Lance
Tries – Nabuli (3)
Con – Cooper (2)
Cards – Fa’agase (Yellow, 67th minute)
Referee: Federico Anselmi
Assistant Ref 1:Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Ref 2:Graham Cooper
TMO : Damien Mitchelmore
1. Ben Daley, 2. Heath Tessmann (C), 3. Jermaine Ainsley, 4. Matt Philip, 5. Adam Coleman, 6. Ross Haylett-Petty, 7. Kane Koteka, 8. Brynard Stander, 9. Ryan Louwrens, 10. Jono Lance, 11. Chance Peni, 12. Billy Meakes, 13. Curtis Rona, 14. Luke Morahan, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Pek Cowan, Tetera Faulkner, Richard Hardwick,Isi Naisarani, Michael Ruru, Ian Prior, Alex Newsome
1. James Slipper (c), 2. Stephen Moore , 3. Sam Talakai , 4. Rob Simmons, 5. Kane Douglas, 6. Adam Korczyk, 7. George Smith, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Nick Frisby, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Eto Nabuli, 12. Duncan Paia’aua, 13. Samu Kerevi, 14. Chris Kuridrani, 15. Karmichael Hunt
Replacements: 16. Andrew Ready, 17. Sef Fa’agase, 18. Taniela Tupou, 19. Izack Rodda, 20. Hendrik Tui, 21. James Tuttle, 22. Jake McIntyre, 23. Izaia Perese (Potential Queensland/Super Rugby debut)