Force fire to win a one-point thriller
The Western Force left it late but saved their best till last, scoring the final three tries of an enthralling battle against Queensland Country to win 50-49 at UWA Sports Park in their opening National Rugby Championship game.
An incredible display of attacking rugby delivered 15 tries and 99 points.
The result could easily have gone either way. In fact, the Queenslanders enjoyed the lead for all but the last four minutes of the game, however, a never say die attitude by the Force saw them peg back the visitors and claim a stirring win.
While the end will be savoured for some time, it wasn’t quite the start the home side were hoping for after losing hooker Andrew Ready to a heavy knock only a few minutes into the game and then seeing the visitors score the opening try shortly after.
That would be the start of what became a see-sawing encounter with both sides going blow-for-blow in the opening 40 minutes.
A beautifully executed driving maul saw Ready’s replacement Heath Tessmann dotting over the chalk for the Force to cancel out Joey Fittock’s earlier try for Queensland Country.
Queensland was back at it again with winger Filipo Dagunu making a break down the left to feed the ball to Patrick James who dived over for another try which was again converted.
Pressure from Force winger Kiti Ratu at the kick-off forced a knock-on and from the ensuing scrum, the West Aussies hit back. A flowing strike move shifted the ball through several hands and Ratu again popped up to provide the final pass to Jack McGregor for the try.
From there the game began to break up with Queensland taking control with two unanswered tries from bustling winger Dagunnu to put his team up by 14.
The Force were stung into action as Nick Jooste freed Tessmann with an inside ball and then collected the return pass to score in the corner.
The action moved back to the other end of the field when lock Angus Blyth barrelled over for another Queensland try. With the margin 16 and half time quickly approaching, Force young gun Carlo Tizzano slammed the ball down between the posts and Deegan made the simple conversion to drag the home side back into the game 26-35.
The scoring continued unabated after the break.
The influential Dagunnu with a scintillating break to put McDermott over in the corner, Saifoloi with the extras. The Force scrapped hard off the restart to regain possession. After several hard runs deep into the Queensland 22m, Dom Hardman scored in the corner and Deegan was accurate again.
However, the positive glow was short-lived, sustained pressure from the Queensland forwards allowing Saifoloi to score from short range and kick his own conversion to put the visitors up by 16 with 20 minutes to go.
To that point, the Force had been unable to score back to back tries but two in quick succession to Jooste and Fergus Lee-Warner closed the gap to just four points, 45-49.
With five minutes to go, wave after wave of gold attacks broke relentlessly on the Queensland Country defensive line. The possession eventually paid dividends, a beautifully weighted cross-field kick from Deegan floated into the welcoming arms of Jonah Placid to put the Force up 50-49.
Despite one final Queensland Country attacking flurry, the Force completed a stunning comeback to give their loyal fans on the hill a game that will long live in their memories.
Western Force: 50
Tries: Jooste 2, Tessman, McGregor, Tizzano, Hardman, Lee Warner, Placid
Cons: Deegan 5
Queensland Country: 49
Tries: Dagunu 2, Fittock, James, Blyth, McDermott, Saifoloi
Cons: Saifoloi 7