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Reds' 'unbelievable, unfathomable' double disaster sums up shocker as Force spring stunning upset

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23rd March, 2024
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Two inexplicable fumbles by Queensland Reds No.8 Harry Wilson, which both led to tries, summed up a dismal night for Les Kiss’s men as Western Force ripped up the formbook with a 40-31 win in Perth.

It would be simplistic to tie the result to Wilson’s double fumbles – called “unbelievable and unfathomable” by former Wallaby Morgan Turinui on Stan Sport, but they were emblematic of a lethargic, ill-disciplined performance by the team which started round five in second place on the table.

“There were shades of the team we don’t want to be,” said beaten skipper Tate McDermott. “The boys never say die but we made too many errors. They beat us in the effort areas.”

The loss saw them drop to fifth, overtaken by the Chiefs, Brumbies and the Blues who all won earlier in the weekend, while the Force’s first win of the season carried them off the foot of the table and sent the 0-5 defending champion Crusaders to the basement.

The Force were baked by their coach Simon Cron after last week’s loss to Moana Pasifika – he called their effort “horrendous ” in that defeat. If he was hoping for a response it came emphatically, and right from the start, as they scored 40 points for the first time in seven years.

The Reds charged deep towards the Force line in the opening minutes but the hosts were resolute, holding the visitors’ drives at bay. Having survived that storm, they shocked the Reds with their first entry into the their 22.

Harry Potter, excellent at No.15, drew in the midfield defence and found Ben Donaldson whose flick pass sent Bayley Kuenzle away for the first of his two tries.

The second try came eight minutes later when former Waratah Carlo Tizzano was adjudged to have forced the ball on the try line in a crush of bodies.

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Hamish Stewart was bossing the midfield with Hunter Paisami strangely subdued and he was the catalyst for a third try in the opening half hour, this one a well worked move finished off by Chase Tiatia. That move included two big carries from Sam Spink and some sharp involvement from Donaldson, who comfortably out played his opposite No.10 Tom Lynagh.

“How good’s Hamish Stewart been the last couple of weeks?” asked Nic White from the bench during a second half interview. “He’s our glue to be honest.”

Nic White of the Force passes the ball during the round five Super Rugby Pacific match between Western Force and Queensland Reds at HBF Park, on March 23, 2024, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Nic White of the Force passes the ball during the round five Super Rugby Pacific match between Western Force and Queensland Reds at HBF Park, on March 23, 2024, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

The Reds desperately needed points before halftime and Wilson set it up with a bullocking run. Fraser McReight backed him up well and Tate McDermott, with a little dummy, and squeezed over past Tim Anstee.

That should have been the platform but Wilson dropped the kick off under no pressure. It didn’t take long for the Force to take full advantage and a 28-5 halftime lead as Tiatia ran hard at Lynagh near the line and Nic White was hand to scoop up the ball and cross.

The Reds started the second half with a second try to McDermott inside 90 seconds as Wilson popped up a short pass off the back of a wheeling scrum and McDermott gave a double dummy on his way to the five pointer.

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But Wilson, maybe still stewing over his first error, came up with an even worse one – the ball ballooning off his chest to Kuenzle who made no mistake to run across his second.

“Unbelievable. The great thing about that is Bayley Kuenzle being available for this unfathomable opportunity,” said Turinui.

The commentary team went to Kiss in the coaching box – fair play to him for his reasoned and articulate interview.

“I don’t think it was technical and tactical,” he said about what needed fixing at halftime. “It was about making sure we put the energy back in and do the things we committed to. We just went off the boil a bit.”

Although Matt Faessler scored his sixth try of the season, and the first from a ball carry rather than a maul, and there were tries to McDermott and McReight, Tizzano crossed for a second of his own – a big smile breaking on his face as he neared the line.

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The boil was eventually reached as Jock Campbell ran in a late try – the Reds’ fifth to the six of the Force.

“You can see it’s been a great coaching week by [Cron] and his staff,” said Turinui.

“They look a different team defensively – defence, discipline and set piece- they’ve been excellent across every sector.”

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