Early blitz & late Prior penalty earns Force pre-season win over Reds

Watch the highlights as the Western Force beat the Queensland Reds 21-19 at Brisbane's Ballymore Stadium in their opening pre-season trial game.

The Western Force have started their pre-season with a come-from-behind 21-19 trial game victory over the Queensland Reds in warm conditions at Ballymore Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Veteran scrum-half Ian Prior’s penalty goal with two minutes to play put the visitors ahead, after Fortescue Academy winger Ronan Leahy’s 72nd minute try in the corner cut the deficit to one point.

The Force produced excellent game management to wind down the clock to secure the victory, after winger Harry Potter - who joined from Leicester Tigers in the off-season - had earlier scored two tries to help the visitors race to a 13-0 lead in an impressive opening 20 minutes.

Queensland had rallied back in the contest, which was played as three 30-minute periods, with tries from Harry Wilson (27’), Tim Ryan (40’) and Joe Brial (56’) helping them earn a 19-13 advantage at the final change.

But the WA side finished stronger, Leahy crossing after Chase Tiatia’s clever kick, before Prior’s penalty goal following numerous waves near the tryline from the Force forwards.

The victory is a welcome boost for the Force, who will host the ACT Brumbies in their second pre-season trial game on Saturday 10 February from 5pm at Revo Fitness Stadium in Claremont. The Club’s annual Fan Day will also take place from 4pm around the game, with entry free.

New recruit Will Harris laid some big tackles early to turn over possession in the Force's favour, before housemate Ben Donaldson opened the scoring with a ninth-minute penalty after Fraser McReight was penalised for not rolling out.

The Force crossed first when Hamish Stewart burst through, initiating a Tim Anstee line break, before play spread right for full-back Max Burey to find right winger Potter for the opening try in the corner.

Potter scored again down the right three minutes later, opening up a 13-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes, with starting scrum-half Issak Fines-Leleiwasa receiving a kind bounce from Burey’s rushed kick. From that, hooker Tom Horton made a run and laid off for housemate Potter to cross.

The Reds responded in the 27th minute when co-captain Tate McDermott spotted a gap after a lineout, creating an opportunity for Wilson’s try to make it 13-5 upon the conclusion of the first period.

Queensland closed within a point in the 40th minute after youngster Ryan scored with his first touch in the left corner, with Lawson Creighton landing a tough conversion.

After both sides made a raft of changes it was the Reds who scored next, with reserve scrum-half Louis Werchon’s tap and go allowing Brial to capitalize on a Force defensive gap and cross under the sticks for a 19-13 lead at the final change.

Atu Moli was yellow carded 10 minutes into the final third but the visitors still made it three tries each in the 72nd minute when Tiatia’s clever left-foot kick found Leahy in the left corner to score.

The Force could’ve re-claimed the lead with the conversion but veteran Prior’s attempt hit the post, ensuring the Reds held a one-point lead.

But Prior would get a more routine opportunity within the 22m straight in front after the Force earned a penalty following numerous forward thrusts in the final few minutes. From there, Prior helped wind down the clock with good game management to secure the win.

The Force's opening game of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season is on Friday 23 February at HBF Park against the Hurricanes.

Queensland Reds 19

Tries: Wilson (27’), Ryan (40’), Brial (56’)

Conversions: Creighton 1/2, McLaughlin-Phillips 1/1

Penalties: Nil

Western Force 21

Tries: Potter 2x (14’, 17’), Leahy (72’)

Conversions: Donaldson 0/2, Prior 0/1

Penalties: Donaldson 1/1, Burey 0/1, Prior 1/1

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