Force edge Perth arm-wrestle
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Western Fore came from behind to edge the Reds 26-19 in an arm-wrestle in Perth on Thursday.
The Reds were warm favourites, but the perennial cellar dwellers of Super Rugby, the Force, were able to snatch the win.
The teams scored three tries each, but three Ian Prior penalties and a Michael Ruru try saw the Force come back from trailing 12-19 to win the match.
Force captain Heath Tessmann hailed a new resolve within the team.
"I think 12 months ago we might not have carried this off, but there is a lot of confidence in this group," Tessmann said.
The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the Reds and particularly wing Eto Nabuli, whose hat-trick of tries wasn't enough.
Nabuli, another former Rugby League player, ran in tries in the 19th, 21st and 49th minutes, after the Force had opened the scoring in the second minute.
Force wing Chance Peni was on the end of some clever passing and crossed for the first try to give the apprehensive home crowd an early boost.
Nabuli then stepped up and his brilliant second try put the Reds in a strong position early, but Force lock Matt Philip bustled over in the 34th minute to level the scores heading into half-time.
Fijian Nabuli's third try gave the Reds a 17-12 lead and Quade Cooper added the two for the conversion.
However, the Force struck back through successive penalties in the 54th and 67th minute, both from the boot of Prior, to set up their late push to victory and they held a last-gasp challenge from the Reds at bay.
Wallaby forward Adam Coleman limped off with a leg injury late in the first half, but the Force said the injury was not serious.
Man of the match: You can look at Eto Nabuli's hat-trick for the Reds, or Chance Peni's equally devastating attacking ability. However, we feel the most influential player was Western Force replacement Ian Prior and he gets our award.
For the Western Force:
Tries: Peni, Philip, Rona
Pens: Prior 3
Tries: Nabuli 3
Cons: Cooper 2
Yellow card: Sef Fa'agase (Reds, 67 - foul play, dangerous tackle)
Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Heath Tessmann (captain), 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Richard Hardwick, 20 Isi Naisarani, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Alex Newsome.
Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia'aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Adam Korczyk, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacements: 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.
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
@rugby365com & AFP