Force upset Hurricanes in Perth
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Western Force have kept their Super Rugby Pacific finals hopes alive with a dramatic 27-22 home win over the Hurricanes.
A 74th-minute try to centre Byron Ralston and the successful conversion proved decisive after the Force trailed 20-22.
Saturday’s win elevated the Force to eighth, but they will lose that spot even if the ninth-placed Highlanders fall to Melbourne but pick up a bonus point in Sunday’s away clash with the Rebels.
It was the Force’s first home win of the season.
The eighth-placed qualifying team – either the Force or Highlanders – will play away to the ladder-leading Blues in Auckland in next week’s quarterfinals.
Needing a final-round win to keep their season going, the Force trailed by 11 points just before half-time.
But they showed enormous heart against the finals-bound Hurricanes, who scored 17 straight first-half points.
The Hurricanes scored four tries to three, with their impressive fullback Josh Moorby crossing for two first-half five-pointers.
It was a rousing final Force game in Perth for coach Tim Sampson – who is being replaced by Simon Cron – and retiring players Richard Kahui, Jeremy Thrush and Greg Holmes.
Centre Kahui was forced off the field with a head knock in the fifth minute and didn’t return while fellow former All Black and lock Thrush was sin-binned early in the game for a cynical act.
Captain and scrumhalf Ian Prior kicked two penalties in his 100th game for the Force to give the home side an early 6-0 lead.
Moorby showed great footwork to evade four tackles for his first try and backed up well to score a second, before No.8 Brayden Iose showed tremendous pace to run almost 40 metres to round off a sweeping cross-field move.
Down 6-17, the Force got back into the game just before half-time when Argentinian prop Santiago Medrano crashed his way over and Prior’s conversion reduced the deficit to four points at the break.
The Hurricanes were a man short within a minute of the second half starting, with wing Salesi Rayasi sin-binned for an intentional knock on.
The Force twice opted for line-outs rather than shots at goal in the following five minutes and the tactic paid off the second time, with hooker Andrew Ready crashing over from a rolling maul.
Prior’s conversion gave the Force a 20-17 lead but a lovely cut-out pass from Moorby set up Rayasi for a try that put the Hurricanes two points up just before the hour.
They had another try scrubbed out for a knock on, but the Force held on and came back to produce the decisive score.
For Western Force:
Tries: Medrano, Ready, Ralston
Cons: Prior 2, McDonald
Pens: Prior 2
Tries: Moorby 2, Iose, Rayasi
Western Force: 15 Jake McIntyre, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Bryon Ralston, 12 Richard Kahui, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Reesjan Pasitoa, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Jackson Pugh, 7 Tim Anstee, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Ryan McCauley, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Bo Abra, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Jack Winchester, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Kyle Godwin, 23 Brad Lacey.
Hurricanes: 15 Josh Moorby, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Bailyn Sullivan, 12 Billy Proctor, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Aidan Morgan, 9 TJ Perenara (captain), 8 Brayden Iose, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Caleb Delany, 5 Justin Sangster, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Pouri Rateke-Stones.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Tevita Mafileo, 19 Blake Gibson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Teihorangi Walden.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper, Jordan Kaminski
TMO: Kyle Burnett