Force stun Reds, into Super Rugby finals

·3-min read

The Western Force have qualified for the Super Rugby AU finals for the first time in their 16-year history after a Jordan Olowofela hat-trick inspired them to a stunning 30-27 victory over the Queensland Reds at HBF Park.

The Force trailed 21-7 late in the first half of Friday night's match, but sparked by Olowofela's heroics, the home side hit the lead in the 74th minute despite being down to 14 men.

The end of the match was epic, with the Reds twice turning down a penalty straight in front of the posts in order to go for the win.

The Force held firm, winning the final scrum of the match after the siren before kicking the ball out to secure the win.

The result means the Force finish third, and they will take on the Brumbies in a semi-final.

The winner of that will meet the Reds in the grand final.

The Melbourne Rebels, who take on the NSW Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, now have no hope of making the finals.

"It's great. I've been supporting the Force since their inception in 2006, and then I had the honour of representing them," stand-in captain Kyle Godwin said.

"And to be part of the first team to make it through to the finals, it's truly humbling.

"It's been a grind for the Force the last 16 years, and hopefully this is just the start for us, and we can do some damage and get some results in the next few weeks."

The Force suffered a huge blow before the match when Irish legend Rob Kearney, who was due to return from an adductor injury, was ruled out.

Then after just 81 seconds, Force centre Tevita Kuridrani was yellow carded for a dangerous tip tackle on Hunter Paisami.

Three minutes later Paisami scored the opening try after busting through several Force defenders and stretching his hand forward to touch down.

The Force stole a try back in the eighth minute despite the numerical disadvantage, with Olowofela snaring an intercept and running 52 metres to touch down.

But with less than a minute before Kuridrani was due to return to the field, Reds prop Taniela Tupou produced a try for the highlights reel.

Tupou busted through two Force tacklers, got up from the ground and busted through two more tacklers in a 20m charge towards the line.

The Force were dealt another blow in the 23rd minute when winger Toni Pulu was yellow carded for an accumulation of team penalties.

The penalty count read 6-1 at that point, and the Reds crossed in the next play after a neat inside pass from scrumhalf Tate McDermott put winger Filipo Daugunu into space for the try.

Trailing 21-7 things looked bleak for the Force, but their hopes were revived through a Domingo Miotti penalty in the 34th minute and a try to hooker Feleti Kaitu'u five minutes later, reducing the margin to just six points at halftime.

Olowofela crossed for his second try in the 47th minute, but the Reds still led by a point after Miotti missed the conversion.

The margin was still one point when Force lock Jeremy Thrush was yellow carded in the 68th minute, handing O'Connor an easy three points and reducing the home side to 14 men.

But there was another twist to come, with Olowofela running on to a superb grubber-kick from Richard Kahui to score his third try in the 74th minute in what proved to be the match-winning moment.