Force finals hopes in the balance as relentless Reds run riot

Sat, May 25, 2024, 11:35 AM
by Ben Somerford
Western Force v Queensland Reds Highlights | Round 14 | SRP 2024

The Western Force’s Super Rugby Pacific finals hopes have been dealt a blow following a heavy 59-13 loss to the fifth-placed Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

The Force headed into the game full of confidence, having won three of the side’s past five games and having beaten the Reds 40-31 earlier in the season.

The first half ebbed and flowed with the Force right in the contest with Ben Donaldson scoring two penalties but trailed 25-6 at the break. The scoreline could’ve been closer after the Force were denied a George Poolman try by the TMO after the half-time siren.

But the Reds were dominant in the second 40, securing a nine-tries-to-one victory, with rookie Tim Ryan scoring a hat-trick while Fraser McReight grabbed a double.

Bayley Kuenzle scored a 78th minute consolation try for the Force which he converted, while Donaldson added the visitors’ only other points via the two first-half penalties.

The Force weren’t helped by second-half yellow cards to Reed Prinsep and Hamish Stewart, with ill-discipline creeping in. But the Reds were the better side, with their dominance underlined by 160-85 carries and 8-1 clean breaks.

The WA side made 193 tackles for the game, but had 35 missed tackles, while they struggled for meaningful possession in the second half.

Force captain Jeremy Williams said: “Pretty tough night. We were ill-disciplined. Didn’t have any dominance around the contact areas. Pretty disappointed.”

The Force remain in finals contention ahead of the final round where they’ll host the ACT Brumbies at HBF Park on Saturday 1 June from 5:35pm, knowing only a win will give them any hope of making the top eight, now relying on other results.

Williams added: “Big one is to stay tight. Get all our recovery and review done. Have a good look in the mirror. Flush it, then it’s a new week. Last game of the season before finals, we’re looking to get a win at home.”

The Force generated an early turnover through Carlo Tizzano, wearing a scrum cap, leading to a penalty scored by Donaldson from 15m out for a 3-0 lead.

But the hosts responded immediately, with Tate McDermott’s intelligent cross-field kick out of the ruck finding Ryan who rose above debutant Ronan Leahy to score in the corner. Lynagh couldn’t convert, making it 5-3 to the Reds.

Ryan almost scored again in the 10th minute only for referee Damon Murphy to spot a Hunter Paisami knock-on but the Reds would cross again via full-back Jock Campbell in the 17th minute with some quick ball down their right. Lynagh converted for a 12-3 lead.

Donaldson made it 12-6 with a 21st minute penalty kick, only for Lynagh to add three points of his own following an offside.

The Reds fly-half copped a big shot from Kuenzle and Leahy but picked up himself to make it 18-6 following penalty against Stewart for hands in the ruck. The penalties kept coming but Force fly-half Donaldson missed his 40m attempt on the half hour.

Queensland added their third try in the 37th minute with Seru Uru crossing after three drives following a 5m lineout. Lynagh added the extras for a 25-6 lead.

Right on half-time, the Force were denied an avenue back into the game when Poolman appeared to score after pouncing on a loose ball, only for the TMO to spot a Kuenzle knock-on in the ruck.

Queensland moved further ahead in the 45th minute after Poolman’s knock-on, with Ryan exploding with pace down the right to dot. Lynagh missed the conversion for a 30-6 Reds’ lead.

The Reds’ forwards powered their way towards a fifth try from Matt Faessler, before the Force were reduced to 14 in the 58th minute with Prinsep binned for a dangerous tackle. Queensland capitalized, with McReight getting over.

McReight dotted again five minutes later on the fast break for a 47-6 lead in the 65th minute. Queensland’s forward pack maintained their dominance with Josh Nasser getting over on the back of a maul.

Hamish Stewart was yellow carded before Ryan completed his hat-trick in the corner, with James O’Connor’s conversion opening up a 59-6 lead.

The Force grabbed their consolation try after Donaldson's line break, laying off for Tiatia who spread wide to the right for Kuenzle to dash across the line. Kuenzle converted his own try.

Queensland Reds 59

Tries: Ryan (5’, 44’, 75’), Campbell (17’), Uru (37’), Faessler (51’), McReight (59’, 64’), Nasser (70’)

Conversions: Lynagh 3/6, O’Connor 1/3

Penalties: Lynagh 2/2

Western Force 13

Tries: Kuenzle (78’)

Conversions: Kuenzle 1/1

Penalties: Donaldson 2/3

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