The Western Force and the ACT Brumbies have shared the points in a thrilling Men’s U16 Super Rugby Championship game which ended 18-18 with Ezekiel Jackson unable to convert a potential game-winning penalty after the siren.
The Force won a penalty from a lineout inside their 22m on a 45-degree angle, with the siren sounding as Nedlands fly-half Jackson lined up, but his attempt sailed just wide to the left in fine conditions at Revo Fitness Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It was a dramatic end to a topsy-turvy clash between two sides with 1-1 records entering Round 4. The result hurts the Force’s hopes of qualifying for the Final, needing a bonus-point win in their final game against the ladder leading NSW Waratahs, coupled with a Brumbies win over the Queensland Reds without a bonus point.
Jackson was the Force's Player of the Match for a brilliant display including several line breaks and bursts, while the Force's scrum caused the Brumbies issues all game.
Southern Lions inside centre Penijameni Naqau and North Coast winger Dermott Arthy scored the Force’s two tries, with the latter crossing for a 12-10 half-time lead, but the Brumbies scored the only try of the second half, before the late drama after the Force had rallied from 18-15 down.
The Brumbies started strong and went ahead within five minutes, rolling over with strength after a line-out within 5m with the ball tucked under prop Moses Kaufusi’s arm.
The Force pushed for an immediate reply with hooker Luke Megson denied on the line, before Naqau crossed in the 11th minute from Tamarangi Tunui’s pass out of scrum-half. Naqau converted to make it 7-5.
The home side came under pressure again but the Force front row turned around the Brumbies’ scrum, before ACT spread play to the right side, with Isaiah Cornforth breaking clear to score.
The Force front row won another crucial scrum to turn the ball in their attacking half before flanker Felix Cooper was held up after a pick and drive.
However, the Force would score on the stroke of half-time with electric link-up play between backs Naqau, Chase Bunce and Arthy down the left side, allowing the latter to use his pace to score for a 12-10 half-time lead.
The Force went 15-10 up after another win at the scrum, before Jackson’s break earned a penalty, which Naqau converted from straight in front.
In the 43rd minute, Harry Oddy’s line break released Taj Mekene down the right side with the try-line beckoning but he was pushed over the sideline.
The Brumbies squared the game up in the 49th minute with outside centre Denzel Veikune crossing for his fourth try of the season.
ACT took the lead with less than 10 minutes left after intense pressure on the Force defence line, with Eli Fuller kicking a penalty, but the Force responded immediately after winning territory from the restart from a Jackson penalty after a Brumbies offside.
In the dying minutes, Jackson unleashed a line break from defence, with Arthy also darting down the left touch line to gain territory. The Force won a penalty from a lineout, but Jackson was unable to convert for the game-winner after the siren sounded.
Tries: Naqau (11’), Arthy (35’)
Conversions: Naqau 1/2
Penalties: Naqau 1/1, Jackson 1/2
Tries: Kaufusi (5’), Cornforth (25’), Veikune (49’)
Conversions: Kirsten 0/2, Pfitzner 0/1
Penalties: Fuller 1/1