Force topple Reds, end lean home run

Thursday March 2, 2017

The Western Force have ended their recent run of home defeats with a spirited 26-19 victory over the Queensland Reds at nib Stadium in Perth this evening.

Led by Curtis Rona and Dane Haylett-Petty the home side were celebrating their first home win in nearly two years with a courageous come-from-behind performance against a star-studded Reds line-up.

Best for the Reds in defeat were Eto Nabuli, who scored a hat-trick of five-pointers, along with veterans George Smith and Quade Cooper.

The home side moved the ball quickly and a gap opened on the Reds right side. Chance Peni was able to scoot through and score the first try in only the second minute.

Both teams were then locked in an arm-wrestle contest with play stagnant between each 22 metre lines.

When the Reds were able to venture inside the opposing 22, an offside penalty allowed them to capitalise through Nabuli who dived over in the left corner.

Moments later some modest marking allowed Nabuli to split the middle for one of the easiest tries he may ever score and give the Reds a 12-5 advantage.

Adam Coleman sent shivers through Australian Rugby when he was assisted from the field nursing a knee injury, while Matt Philip, in his first run-on match, crossed the line just before half time.

Both teams went to the main break locked at 12-all on the scoreboard with the visitors holding a slight edge (53-47%) on the key possession and territory stats.

After the break, handling errors cost both sides until Duncan Paia’aua put through a neatly timed grubber kick for Nabuli to pounce and cross in the left corner for his third try of the night.

Cooper then stretched the margin out to seven before back to back penalty goals from Ian Prior saw the Force back to being only one point behind with 15 minutes to play.

Replacement Sef Fa’agase was granted a reprieve in the 58th minute for possible foul play, the video replay inconclusive, however the Reds forward was sent to the sin bin eight minutes later for his high tackle on Isireli Naisarani.

Rona made it a happy homecoming, the former NRL player taking advantage of the Force having an extra man when a Michael Ruru pass and space on the right side allowed him to dive over.

Prior narrowly missed the conversion attempt though was able to push the margin out to a converted-try in the 75th minute with his third penalty goal.

Next week, the Force travel to the nation’s capital for a showdown with the Brumbies on Friday night, while the Reds return home where they host perennial champions Crusaders on Saturday night.

2017 Super Rugby – Round Two:

Western Force – 26

Tries: Chance Peni, Matt Philip, Curtis Rona
Conversions: Jono Lance 1/2, Prior 0/1
Penalty Goals: Ian Prior 3/4
Drop Goals: Nil

Queensland Reds – 19

Tries: Eto Nabuli (3)
Conversions: Quade Cooper 2/3
Penalty Goals: Nil
Drop Goals: Nil

Crowd: 7,008 @ nib Stadium, Perth
Referee: Federico Anselmi (ARG)
Half Time: 12-all

Western Force: 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 Billy Meakes, 11 Luke Morahan, 12 Curtis Rona, 13 Ben Tapuai, 14 Chance Peni, 15 Dane Haylett-Petty. Reserves: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Richard Hardwick, 20 Isireli Naisarani, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Alex Newsome.

Queensland Reds: 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. Reserves: 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.