Western Force have come from behind to snatch a 16-15 win over Melbourne Rebels to keep alive their hopes of a Super Rugby AU finals berth.
In an ugly affair, the Force hit the front for the first time in the 77th minute, with Domingo Miotti converting a Tim Anstee try to break the hearts of Rebels fans at AAMI Park on Friday night.
“It was a pretty fierce battle out there but it showed the character of the team,” said Force coach Tim Sampson.
“We had confidence at half time that if we played in the right areas of the field that we would get over the line and we did that.
“My last message at half-time was whoever wants this more is going to get this and that last defensive effort typified that.”
The unbeaten Queensland Reds and the Brumbies, who duel in Brisbane on Saturday night, already have the top two spots sewn up with the Rebels and Force bidding for the remaining spot.
On the back of the arm-wrestle victory the Western Force mov ed level with the Rebels with two rounds remaining.
Third place travel to play second, while the team that finishes top hosts the winner of that play-off in the grand final.
The Rebels had 65 per cent of possession but couldn’t manage a try, with the Force mauling the ball across after a five-metre lineout for their sole five-pointer.
But the Force’s defence deserved credit in a game marred by errors from both teams.
They also managed with 14 men for 10 minutes after Force flanker Kane Koteka was yellow-carded after repeated team infringements
Left shell-shocked last week by the Reds’ fast start, the Rebels began well when Reece Hodge booted a penalty from inside his own half in the second minute.
Matt Toomua kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Rebels with three further penalties for a 12-6 halftime lead, and that went out to 15-9 after 62 minutes before he was forced off with a head knock.
“We had enough chances there; I tho ught we were in control for most of the game, we just didn’t capitalise when we needed to,” Toomua said.
Have you ever seen anything like it? Jack McGregor can’t find touch and gives the Rebels another crack at pinching the win ?
— StanSportAU (@StanSportAU) April 9, 2021
“We had countless opportunities in their 22 to score a try but we weren’t clinical enough.”
The Force had their own injury concern with winger Byron Ralston knocked out cold af ter his head hit the hip of Melbourne centre Lewis Holland.
Play stopped for 10 minutes while he was assessed by medics and stretchered off, although he was able to remain at the ground.
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