The Force scored an important 30-20 win against the Reds in Perth on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The game was in the balance until the 72nd minute. The Force led 23-20, but were under immense pressure in their own 22. Somehow they managed to control possession and launch a sweeping counter-attack, which culminated in a try for Nathan Charles at the other end of the field.
The result is an important one as the Force look to confirm their place in the play-offs. This was a match they were always likely to win, but it should be a concern that they allowed the Reds back into the contest in the crucial period before, and after, half-time.
Winger Nick Cummins crossed the line for the hosts in just the ninth minute. The Force continued to apply the pressure, and raced to a 17-3 lead before the end of the first quarter.
That momentum was stalled when flanker Hugh McMeniman was yellow-carded for dangerous play. The Reds made good use of their numerical advantage, and a try by replacement Samuela Kerevi ensured that they reduced the gap to seven points before the half-time break.
The Reds' driving maul then set up a try for Albert Anae, and suddenly the visitors were in a position where they could overtake the much-fancied Force. And they may of if not for that important counter-attack which led to Charles's try.
The Force will tackle the Brumbies in Perth next week, in a game that will probably decide which one of these teams progresses to the play-offs.
Force – Tries: Nick Cummins, Ben McCalman, Nathan Charles. Conversions: Jayden Hayward (3). Penalties: Hayward (3).
Reds – Tries: Samuela Kerevi, Albert Anae. Conversions: Mike Harris (2). Penalties: Harris (2).
Force – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Justin Turner, 22 Dillyn Leyds, 23 Solomoni Rasolea.
Reds – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Ben Daley, 19 Dave McDuling, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Samuela Kerevi, 22 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 23 Lachie Turner.
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images