The Western Force beat the Queensland Reds 30-27 in a thrilling Super Rugby AU clash at HBF Park, Perth.
Jordan Olowofela scored a sensational hat-trick as the Western Force came from behind to register a stunning win over the undefeated Queensland Reds.
The under-20 England star shone brightly under the lights in Western Australia as he ran the Reds ragged.
The defiant win, despite playing 30 minutes with 14 men after three yellow cards, Tim Sampson’s charges booked their place in the Super Rugby AU playoff match against the Brumbies.
A Melbourne Rebels win over the NSW Waratahs is now irrelevant after the Force booked their playoff spot.
This was a rearguard action for the ages as the Force kept the Reds try-less in the second half.
Feleti Kaitu’u also dotted down for the hosts, while Domingo Miotti added two penalties and two conversions.
In fact, the hosts kept the Reds to just two James O’Connor penalties from the 25th-minute as Brad Thorn’s charges imploded.
Some bizarre decision-making by the visitors at the death also helped the Force to claim an unlikely, but well-deserved victory over their illustrious opponents.
Reds dominate the first stanza but cannot make their numerical advantage count
The Reds edged the first half, scoring three converted tries to take a six-point lead at the break. However, the Force fought back to stay in touching distance.
The Force were the architects of their own downfall; their ill-discipline saw them play with 14 men for two periods in the first stanza.
The visitors scored 21 points while Tevita Kuridrani and Toni Pulu spent time on the sidelines as the visitors took a 14-point lead by 25 minutes.
Hunter Paisami and Taniela Tupou’s tries on either side of Olowofela’s first score put the visitors 7-14 up after 12 minutes.
Both scores came while Kuridrani sat on the naughty step.
Olowofela pulled a score back with an intercept from a deflected Tate McDermott pass three minutes after Paisami’s fifth-minute score before try-scoring machine Tupou scored a sensational individual try.
The hosts went back to 15 men but Pulu’s indiscretion at the breakdown saw him go to the sin-bin.
Filipo Daugunu scored, and O’Connor’s third conversion reopened the two-goal lead.
Hunter Paisami injury turns the game in favour of the Force as Reds reel under the momentum shift
The game changed when Paisami left the field following a huge hit from Kuridrani on the half-hour, and the momentum shifted immediately. Up until then, it had been all Reds, now it was all Force.
Domingo Miotti kicked a 34th-minute penalty after Tomas Cubelli was taken out at the ruck, to keep the Perth side in the game.
But the Reds were reeling in the final stages, conceding multiple penalties that allow the hosts to set up attacks inside the opposition’s 22.
Eventually, the dam wall broke when Kaitu’u crashed over the whitewash. Miotti missed the straight-forward conversion, but his team was rolling.
Jordan Petaia went to the bin after taking out Olowofela in the air, and it proved costly because the winger soon had a double.
Miotti broke into the 22 after Pulu’s midfield break. The ball got recycled quickly to the winger, who went route one to the try line.
Miotti again missed the wide conversion, but Sampson’s men were in full control.
O’Connor kicked a 53rd-minute penalty, but a collapsed scrum by his forwards saw Miotti cancel out the standoff’s kick, soon after.
The Reds began to dominate possession, but they could not make several lineouts or scrums inside the opposition’s 22, count.
A thrilling end to a fantastic performance by the Force as Olowofela shines
Jeremy Thrush went to the bin for repeated infringements by the hosts inside the red zone.
It allowed O’Connor to extend the slender lead to four points with 11 minutes to play.
The drama continued as the hosts kept the Reds out, wave after wave repelled.
Then, against the run of play, Olowofela latched onto Richard Kahui’s speculative grubber. He raced past O’Connor, gathered the ball, and celebrated his hat-trick as the crowd roared.
Miotti landed the wide conversion to make it a three-point gap between the teams with less than three minutes to play.
A mix-up from the restart saw the Reds get a penalty five metres out. Instead of opting for the points to level, they decided to scrum.
The Reds won another penalty, but the Force’s defence held firm, holding the visitors out and ending their unbeaten run.
Final Score: Western Force 30 (15) Reds 27 (21)
Tries – Olowofela (3), Kaitu’u
Pen – Miotti (2)
Con – Miotti (2)
Cards – Kuridrani (Yellow, 2′), Pulu (Yellow, 23′), Thrush (Yellow, 69′)
Tries – Paisami, Tupou, Daugunu
Pen – O’Connor (2)
Con – O’Connor (3)
Cards – Petaia (Yellow, 42′)
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant Ref 1: Graham Cooper
Assistant Ref 2: Reuben Keane
TMO: Brett Cronan
15 Jack McGregor, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin (captain), 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Tim Anstee, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Fergus Lee-Warner, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Richard Kahui, 23 Jake Strachan
15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (captain), 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Scott-Young, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Feao Fotuaika
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Richie Asiata, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Ryan Smith, 20 Seru Uru, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Josh Flook, 23 Ilaisa Droasese