The Western Force U19s have suffered a heartbreaking 35-27 loss to the Queensland Reds after leading for most of their Super Rugby Men’s U19 game at Ballymore Stadium on Sunday.
In a high-quality contest, the Force led 22-7 in the first half but the Reds stormed back in the second stanza with two tries in the final 10 minutes from Joseph Liddy and William Nason pinching the lead and the four points.
Dylan Bronlund, who scored four tries in last week’s 48-5 win over the Melbourne Rebels, added another two for the Force, including a 70th minute try which appeared decisive until Liddy and Nason turned the tide.
Both sides scored five tries in an entertaining back-and-forth contest, but conversion was critical with Ryley Bierton nailing all five for the Reds, compared to the Force’s one.
The Force have the bye in Round 3, with a return to action on Saturday 21 October against the ACT Brumbies at Revo Fitness Stadium in Perth.
The visitors were the better side in the first half, running in four tries, but Tom Manca’s try just before half-time kept the Reds in the contest at 22-14 at the break, before they applied pressure throughout the second half which was scoreless for 25 minutes until an action packed finale.
Earlier, the Force opened the scoring in the fifth minute with Perth-Bayswater flanker Luke Holt-Brown, elevated to the starting side, coming close down the left edge, before spreading play to the right with Bronlund getting over. Finn Prass hit the post with the conversion attempt.
The Reds, however, took the lead 10 minutes later with an excellent individual effort from Frankie Goldsbrough, recovering well after an errant pass by scrum-half Manca.
UWA winger Tian Toufan, who scored one of the Force’s eight tries in last week’s win over the Rebels, restored the visitors’ lead in the 19th minute with a try down the left edge after Ollie Cummins’ offload set him clear in space. Cummins would later leave the game with a right arm issue.
Two minutes later, Australia U20 rep Prass crossed for the Force’s third try down the right after neat link-up play with impressive Palmyra scrum-half Doug Philipson and Oakley Pearce.
The Force came close to extending their lead on the half hour with a barrage of pick-and-go attempts but the Reds’ defence held firm on their goalline during a penalty advantage. But persistence paid off with Philipson dishing off for Kauri Tipene-Grace to score under the sticks, with Prass converting for a 22-7 lead.
Five minutes before half-time, Queensland got their second from Manca after the Force backline didn’t deal with a Will McCulloch kick, allowing Patrick Sowerby to set up the scrum-half to score after a pick-and-go line-break.
Resuming at 22-14 in the second half, the Force had sustained pressure early, but the Reds soon gained an advantage with fresh reinforcements to their forward pack earning territory, with the Force giving away back-to-back scrum penalties, only for tighthead prop AJ Preketes to come up with a big turnover.
The Reds re-grouped and should’ve scored down the left edge in the 61st minute when Goldsbrough laid off for open winger Ryley Bierton but he dropped the pass.
Queensland got the crucial first try of the second half in the 65th minute with Bierton making amends for his earlier error, intercepting Preketes’ pass and racing clear to score. Bierton added the extras, making it a one-point game at 22-21.
But last week’s four-try hero Bronlund delivered the reply in the 70th minute, with the UWA back-rower crossing as the Force spread play wide after Toufan’s outstanding run forward. Prass missed the conversion, keeping the door open for the Reds at 27-21.
Queensland found the response with a converted try to claim the lead with six minutes to go after Joseph Liddy won the race to his improvised kick following William Nason’s catch and run.
Nason grabbed a try of his own to seal the result after Bronlund almost pinched an intercept break out of the Reds’ scrum-half, only for his fumble to fall kindly to Nason who burst clear to score, with Bierton converting to open up a game-deciding eight-point lead.
Tries: Goldsbrough (14’), Manca (36’), Bierton (65’), Liddy (73’), Nason (79’)
Conversions: Bierton 5/5
Tries: Bronlund 2 (5’, 70’), Toufan (19’), Prass (21’), Tipene-Grace (32’)
Conversions: Prass 1/5