FORCE HEARTBREAK AS REBELS STEAL LAST-MINUTE WIN
The Western Force suffered a heartbreaking 25-20 Super Time defeat to the Melbourne Rebels in a closely contested Super Rugby AU match at Leichhardt Oval in NSW.
With the scores locked at 20-all at full time, the game went into Super Time with the Rebels getting the crucial score within two minutes via a try by Isa Naisarani.
Either side could have won the game in the dying stages of regular time with Jono Lance narrowly missing a penalty with four minutes to play and Reece Hodge’s long-range effort falling short of the mark on the stroke of full time.
It was a tight encounter throughout with the scores tied at 10-all at the break after an evenly balanced first half that was full of intensity.
The Force put the Rebels under pressure early on with some clever kicks over the defence and hard running from centres Richard Kahui and Kyle Godwin in midfield, as well as by flanker Henry Stowers in broken play, forcing a string of Rebels penalties.
The early pressure paid off when flyhalf Jono Lance opened the scoring with a penalty in the 12th minute.
The Force maintained the pressure, as the Rebels were reduced to 14 men in the 25th minute when Naisarani was yellow-carded following a series of foul play warnings from referee Angus Gardner.
The Force opted to kick for touch and took full advantage. Lock Fergus Lee-Warner, who was a stand-out performer, drove over for a try from the resulting lineout.
The Rebels struck back when hooker Jordan Uelese rounded off after his side had held the ball through several phases. Flyhalf Matt To’omua added the conversion to cut the Force lead to three points.
Rebels fullback Reece Hodge levelled the scores with a long-range penalty after the half-time siren.
With the Rebels taking the game to the Force early in the second half, Force captain Jeremy Thrush was sent to the sin bin for lying on the wrong side of a ruck on his own try line.
The Rebels won a sequence of penalties soon after eventually opting to kick for points with To’omua putting his team 13-10 ahead.
Whilst still a man down, the Force mounted a powerful attack from a scrum on halfway. Frisby then created space with a pin-point pass with the ball going down the backline for winger Byron Ralston to run in for the score his fourth try of the season.
The Rebels then surged up the field from the restart, recycling the ball through several phases for replacement lock Matt Philip to score under the posts. To’omua added the extra points to restore the Rebels’ lead at 20-17.
As the match entered its final quarter, Lance kicked at penalty to level the scores at 20-all. A frantic final spell that saw both sides pushing for the win with the Rebels claiming the match in Super Time through a Naisarani try.
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