The Western Force made a strong finish in an entertaining 27-11 defeat to the reigning Super Rugby AU champions, the ACT Brumbies at HBF Park.
It was the Force’s first Super Rugby match in Perth since 2017, exactly three years, seven months and four days ago.
The Brumbies led 13-6 at half-time after a first half that saw both sides showing intent to run the ball.
The Force opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a close-range penalty by scrumhalf and captain Ian Prior. They earned the shot at goal after retaining possession through thirteen phases with some impressive handling and quick recycling at the breakdown.
After weathering a sustained period of attack from the Brumbies following the score, the Force again took the ball through multiple phases, putting the Brumbies defence under sustained pressure.
The Brumbies levelled the score at 3-3 in the 16th minute with flyhalf Noah Lolesio converting a penalty. Four minutes later, Lolesio scored the first try of the match after a pop pass from scrumhalf Nic White at the breakdown enabled the flyhalf to run in under the posts. Lolesio added the conversion to extend the Brumbies lead to 10-3.
The Force reduced the deficit to four points in the 35th minute with a second penalty by Prior following another spell of persistent pressure inside the Brumbies half. The Brumbies restored their seven point advantage on the stroke of half time with a second penalty by Lolesio.
The Brumbies added a second try shortly after the restart, taking the ball through several phases to create an overlap for centre Irae Simone. Lolesio converted to extend the visitors’ lead to 20-6.
Winger Issak Fines-Leleiwasa scored the Brumbies third try of the match in the far-right corner. Lolesio added the conversion to take the Brumbies into a 27-6 lead.
The Force finished strongly, as they launched a series of attacks in the Brumbies half during the closing stages. They were rewarded with a superb try by replacement scrumhalf and debutant Tomás Cubelli after recycling several times close to the Brumbies line.
The Force might have added a second try in injury time, but the hosts were unable to make the most of their dominance towards the end of a thrilling encounter which ended 27-11.
Pens: Prior (2)
Tries: Fines, Lolesio, Simone
Cons: Lolesio (3)
Pens: Lolesio (2)