A defensive battle has seen the Western Force end their pre-season trial against the Queensland Reds with a 10-45 point defeat in the West.
In a hugely entertaining contest, the Force showed immense determination in their first pre-season match on home soil for the 2023 Super season.
Seven players ran on in the starting XV for the first time in the Force Jersey including English duo Sam Spink and Zach Kibirige, with returning Wallabies Tom Robertson and Folau Fainga'a impressing at scrum time.
Izack Rodda looked dominant in the set piece calling lineouts, upon his return after over six months, with the men in blue stealing three in the first 10 minutes.
Precise kicking from flyhalf Hamish Stewart early on saw plenty of meters covered with an even spread of play at both ends.
Wanneroo product Ollie Callan drove through, causing strife for the opposition's defensive structure. A line-out steal by Sydney recruit Jeremy Williams shifted patterns, encouraging a kick deep in the pocket 3 minutes in.
Force rode the momentum from their opening form continuing sustained attacking pressure on the Reds defence in the opening stages. 12 minutes in saw Reds back-rower Harry Wilson over the line, converted by Tom Lyanch (0-7).
A Reds penalty soon extended their advantage to 10, as both sides battled it out in 37-degree heat.
Soon after, Force's formidable international front powered through, turning over a crucial maul at the 20-minute mark, with Stewart soaring a kick far down into the opposition's 20.
The Force retaliated with English recruit Zach Kibirige kicking over the Reds fullback, chasing down and cementing on the line in the final minute of the first 30' (5-10). Kibirige's first try in Force the Force jersey was his own, nailing the left wing.
With defensive pressure dominant in the first 30, the starting line-up remained unchanged. Force's back-row put in a shift early on in the second set, a lapse on the line allowed Harry Wilson to cross for a second time, converted by Lynagh (5-17).
Lock Ryan Smith skated through for the Reds third at the 60-minute mark, and Lyanch converted (5-21).
Fresh legs made an appearance soon after, Issak Fines, Feleti Kaitu'u, Ryan McCauley, Angus Wagner and Wilton Rebolo, instantly shifting the momentum, winning a crucial scrum on the Reds try line.
Stewart continued to set the pace, outrunning Wallabies winger Filipo Daugunu, completing a try-saving tackle deep into their danger zone. The Force lifted as Jackson Pugh and Nikolai Kinalea ran on at the 67' mark. A slick pass from the Reds backline saw scrum-half Kalani Thomas Peirce trough, converted by Lyanch (5-31)
Moments later Campbell Parata runs on and smothers a kick deep into the opposition's line. The Force were quick to capitalise as Parata crossed the line with the assistance of Hooker Tom Horton (10-35). A monumental first try for Parata in the Force Jersey.
The Force showed fight in the final minutes with plenty of gas to burn. A leap of faith by young gun, Reece Tapine right in the corner, a toe on the paint denied the try.
Two quick Harry McLaughlin-Phillips tries in the corner pocket saw the Reds finish their try package (10-45)
It was fantastic to see so many Force Members and fans down at UWA Sports park in support of our first hit out for the season.
Scorers Western Force: Tries: Zach Kibirige (30’), Campbell Parata (91').
Reds: Tries: Harry Wilson (2), Harry McLaughlin-Phillips (2), Ryan Smith, Kalani Thomas, Conversions: Tom Lynagh (4), Isaac Henry (2) Penalties: Henry