Hayward the hero in Brisbane
Fullback Jayden Hayward scored a minute from time as the Western Force snatched a thrilling 32-29 win over the Reds.
Fullback Jayden Hayward scored a minute from time as the Western Force snatched a thrilling 32-29 win over the Reds in their Super Rugby showdown in Brisbane on Saturday.
The try ensured the Force made history - winning four in a row for the first time in their existence.
And the win - in which they outscored the home team by three tries to two - also saw them leapfrog several teams to move into the play-off zone.
While Hayward's heroics and a wobbly drop-goal by erratic flyhalf Sias Ebersohn proved to be vital in the final quarter, some credit must go to the enormous workload of the Force forwards - who had the star-studded Reds pack under constant pressure.
The foundations was laid in the forwards and rammed home in the manner in which they patiently kept taking the ball through the phases - the Hayward five-pointer coming after about 20 phases.
The Force completely dominated the opening quarter - on the field and on the scoreboard.
The Reds' lack of discipline also contributed to their own downfall - with Force flyhalf Sias Ebersohn slotting four of the six breakdown penalties to give his team a 12-0 lead.
It was clear the men from Brisbane, the most penalised team in the competition, were not going to change their attitude and will continue to push the envelope as much as they can.
The game turned on a contentious yellow card in the 23rd minute. The referee asked the TMO to look at a number of incidents in a brief period of play, which lasted about 30 seconds. After what felt like half-an-hour - but was probably about five minutes - they decided that Angus Cottrell was guilty of a no-arms tackle and sent him to the sin bin for 10 minutes.
In that period the Reds scored two converted tries to claim the lead.
The Reds set up a line-out soon after the yellow card and took the ball through the phases as they looked to exploit their numerical advantage. Eventually the defence was sucked in and Quade Cooper swung it wide to Ben Tapuai, who found a massive gap and strolled over.
Just before Cottrell could return the Reds got their second. Again it was phase-play that took them close, before Cooper swung it wide, where he found James Slipper with a three man overlap. The burly prop sold a dummy, which the stretched defensive line bought and he flopped over.
Cooper kicked both conversions to make it 14-12 after 34 minutes.
The Force, back to their full quota, then began to pile on the pressure and it was quick hands that put Ben McCalman over for the Force's opening try.
A late Cooper penalty made it 17-all at the break.
Ebersohn seemed to have left his kicking radar in the dressing room after the break, as he missed two easy penalty shots at goal - one a sitter.
Mike Harris pushed the Reds back into the lead with a long-range shot with just over 20 minutes remaining on the clock - 20-17.
However, the Reds' lack of discipline continued to haunt them and when they were forced back deep into their 22, the home team conceded a five-metre scrum after carrying the ball over their own line.
And from the set-piece the Force took it through a few phases, before a long pass from Ebersohn put former Reds win Luke Morahan over for the visitors' second five-pointer. Jayden Hayward, who took over the goal-kicking from the misfiring Ebersohn, also failed to find the target.
Harris then reclaimed the lead for the Reds, as the penalty count at the breakdown continued to mount at an alarming rate.
Penalties now started to dominate the see-saw game - with Harris regaining the lead for the Reds, Ebersohn then slotting a drop-goal as the Force went ahead and Harris slotting his third and fourth penalties to make it 29-25 going into the final five minutes.
The Force showed patience and took the ball through almost 20 phases, before Hayward stepped through a few tackles - including Quade Cooper and Beau Robinson - to score the try that put his team back in the lead. He added the conversion as the Force held a 32-29 win with less than a minute to go.
Remarkably, the Reds won the ball as the Force knocked on from the restart. After a few ineffective phases, Cooper attempted a drop-goal, but he was wide of the mark and the Force held on for a famous win.
Man of the match: There was Sias Ebersohn's first-half control, Kyle Godwin's mammoth defensive effort, as well as the hard work of Ben McCalman and Matt Hodgson. However, our award goes to Force fullback Jayden Hayward - who ran hard all day and made plenty of metres, eventually stepping through three defenders on his way to the match-winning try.
For the Reds:
Tries: Tapuai, Slipper
Cons: Cooper 2
Pens: Cooper, Harris 4
For the Western Force:
Tries: McCalman, Morahan, Hayward
Pens: Ebersohn 4
Yellow card: Angus Cottrell (Western Force, 23 - foul play, no arms in tackle)
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Albert Anae , 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Jonah Placid.
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Solomoni Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ian Smith (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)