A Byron Ralston try in the final five minutes has ensured the Western Force keep their Super Rugby Pacific finals hopes alive following a powerful 27-22 Round 15 win at HBF Park.
In a hugely entertaining contest, the Force showed immense determination in a do-or-die contest for a first home victory of the campaign.
A promising start from the Force was dampened in the fourth minute, with retiring great Richard Kahui exiting the field after a head knock in the attacking 22.
Despite the setback, the Force opened the scoring in the sixth minute through a penalty goal from Ian Prior in his historic 100th Western Force appearance. The forward pack earned an early win, with the Hurricanes penalised for collapsing the scrum, which led to the successful penalty.
Jeremy Thrush, who announced his retirement earlier in the week, was shown a yellow card to see the home side reduced to 14 men in the seventh minute, however, the Force added another penalty goal 10 minutes later through the boot of Prior (6-0).
The Hurricanes looked to stem the flow of points and were rewarded for their persistence. Joshua Moorby scored two successive tries, with the first converted by Aidan Morgan to see the visitors take a 6-12 lead after 26 minutes.
The Wellington-based side added a third in the 34th minute, with Brayden Iose scoring.
On the stroke of half time, Force prop Santiago Medrano showed quick thinking to score a try with a pick and go move from the ruck.
The Argentinian burst through the final line of defence to cross over, with Prior converting to see the score read 13-17 in favour of the Hurricanes at half time.
Almost immediately from the restart, Hurricanes winger Salesi Rayasi was shown a yellow card. The Force took full advantage, with Andrew Ready scoring from a perfectly executed line-out and rolling maul after 44 minutes. Prior converted to open up a three-point lead (20-17).
Rayasi returned to the field and scored the Hurricanes fourth try in the 57th minute, with the Hurricanes regaining the advantage (20-22).
A dramatic ending ensued, with the Force throwing everything at the Hurricanes in front of a roaring Sea of Blue crowd.
With just five minutes remaining, a slick passing move from homegrown duo McDonald and Reesjan Pasitoa saw the ball enter the hands of Ralston. The winger surged over the line, with McDonald converting to give the Force a five-point lead and set up an enthralling finish (27-22).
The Force defence stood firm in the tense final phases of the game, which included a crucial scrum penalty to seal the win.
The Force now require the Melbourne Rebels to defeat the Highlanders tomorrow by more than seven points in order to book a place in the finals.
Western Force: Tries: Santiago Medrano (38’), Andrew Ready (44’), Byron Ralston (73’). Conversions: Ian Prior (2), Michael McDonald. Penalty Goal: Prior (2).
Hurricanes: Tries: Joshua Moorby (20’, 26’), Brayden Iose (34’), Salesi Rayasi (57’). Conversions: Aidan Morgan.
This match report is brought to you by PS Structures. PS Structures supports rugby in WA from the grassroots community game through to the professional Western Force team.
PS Structures and the Western Force, Striving for Excellence. Visit PS Structures here.