Reds stay unbeaten after surviving Force scare
BRISBANE – Queensland Reds held off an improved Western Force Saturday with a tense 26-19 victory to continue their unbeaten start in this season's Super Rugby AU.
The Reds scored four-to-one tries and overcame the accurate boot of Force fly-half Jake McIntyre to prevail in wet conditions at Suncorp Stadium.
Last year's runners-up have been on a mission, playing an aggressive style which has yielded four straight wins and outright top spot on the five-team ladder at the competition's halfway point.
It is the Reds' best start to a season, after a win that continued their home domination having won nine straight games in Brisbane.
Even though they escaped with the win, Reds stand-in captain James O'Connor was unimpressed with his team's performance.
"We found a way to win but we weren't clinical and we didn't stick to our game plan," said O'Connor, who started his career with the Force.
The Force, who were winless during their return to the competition last year, have been far more competitive this season but, with just one win under their belt, are losing touch with the finals race, where only the top three teams qualify.
"It's tough to swallow and we are right there, but we let the pressure off a couple of times," Force captain Brynard Stander said after his team lost their second straight game by single digits.
It appeared a mismatch on paper, but the Force had long been a bogey side for the Reds having won eight of the previous 12 clashes between the teams.
To stage an upset, the Force needed to pressure relentlessly but were on the back foot immediately with Tate McDermott scoring a try in the ninth minute after the Reds elected to take the scrum from close range.
The Reds, coming off a stirring comeback victory against ACT Brumbies in a grand final rematch, put the foot down when Hunter Paisami crashed his way through to produce a sizzling try.
Appearing on the verge of being blown away, the Force hit back when Feleti Kaitu'u bulldozed over the line for a desperately needed try.
It galvanised the visitors, who flipped the momentum to get within one point by half-time.
The Force resisted a furious Reds rally after the break and hit the lead for the first time when McIntyre nailed a penalty kick.
But it was short-lived, with Paisami crossing in his second try after an adventurous run.
Jock Campbell added another as the Reds secured a bonus point and spoiled Force prop Greg Holmes' 150th game.