The Western Force made tournament favourites the Queensland Reds work hard for every point in going down 26-19 in the Round 5 Super Rugby AU clash at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
After the match, captain Brynard Stander was disappointed with the result.
“Tonight, we fronted up. Some things let us down, we need to build the pressure when we are at their end.”
The Force had their opportunities to win the match but were unable to make the most of their positive attacking play in the final stages.
Both teams were quick out of the blocks with some ferocious tackles early on as they each looked to carry the ball into contact.
With a light drizzle of rain starting, the Reds opted for a scrum from a penalty in front of the Force posts in the eighth minute. As the scrum wheeled, scrumhalf Tate McDermott peeled to the right and managed to find a gap to score the game’s opening try. Flyhalf James O’Connor converted to give the Reds a 7-0 lead.
The visitors responded swiftly, winning a penalty in the 13th minute, which flyhalf Jake McIntyre kicked to reduce the deficit to 7-3 in favour of the hosts.
Soon after, the Reds moved the ball through several pairs of hands before centre Hunter Paisami delivered the second try. O’Connor added the extra points to stretch the Reds’ lead to 14-3 after sixteen minutes.
Undaunted, the Force got themselves swiftly back into Reds’ territory. They carried the ball through several phases, recycling quickly to maintain momentum and create an opening for hooker Feleti Kaitu’u to power over for a try after 20 minutes. McIntyre converted to reduce the deficit to four points.
With a dominant scrum and abundant possession, the Force enjoyed a sustained period of attack in Reds’ territory. They forced their opponents to concede a succession of penalties and twice came close to breaching the opposition line with only staunch Reds defence holding them out.
The Force eventually earned a penalty on the cusp of half-time with McIntyre splitting the uprights to reduce the deficit to just one point at the break.
The Reds held the early possession in the second half and had a try disallowed in the 47th minute, allowing the Force to clear their lines and take play into the Reds half. They soon earned a penalty which was again converted by a composed McIntyre to mark 13 unanswered points by the Force to give them a deserved 16-14 lead.
The Reds regained the lead two minutes later through Paisami, who broke the line to run in for his second try and the Reds’ third. O’Connor missed the conversion as the Reds held a slender lead at 19-16.
Three minutes later, McIntyre succeed with his fourth penalty from four attempts to level the scores at 19-19 with 20 minutes remaining. It was an exceptional performance from the playmaker throughout the match with his clinical kicking proving vital in pushing the Reds to the very end.
The Reds regained the lead in the 67th minute when fullback Jock Campbell added their fourth try, taking the final pass after a strong run by wing Suliasi Vunivalu. O’Connor kicked the extra points to move the score to 26-19 in favour of the hosts.
The Force threw everything at the Reds in the final ten minutes but were unable to breach the defence at numerous attempts and the hosts held on for the victory in an entertaining and tight encounter that could have gone either way.
It was a strong performance from the Force against the undefeated Reds, with the side earning a bonus point.
Western Force – Try: Feleti Kaitu’u. Conversion: Jake McIntyre. Penalties: McIntyre (4)
Reds – Tries: Tate McDermott, Hunter Paisami (2) Jock Campbell. Conversions: James O’Connor (3).