The stunning show of resilience from the Western Force is one of the feel-good stories of modern Australian rugby.
Dead and buried when booted from Super Rugby just a few years ago, the Force are into their first finals series after upsetting the pacesetting Queensland Reds 30-27 in Perth on Friday night.
What did we learn? JIM TUCKER takes a look at a wonderful comeback that came down to 80 absorbing minutes that will live long in the club's history.
1 TOP FELA
English winger Jordan Olowofela is building a cult following among Force fans with exhilarating displays like his three-try effort against the Reds.
Little was known of Olowofela, 22, when he landed in Perth but we all know what he stands for now.
The Leicester and former England Under-20s winger is a real flyer who runs tall and has an elusive swerve.
What has grown since joining strangers has been his eagerness to come off his wing.
He scooted clear for try No.1 with an intercept, finished an excellent raid out wide for his second and showed terrific pace by chasing a deft Richard Kahui kick for his hat-trick try.
Speed. There is no substitute.
2 FIGHT AND LEGACY
You just cannot overstate what the Force have done. Few professional clubs in any sport get kicked into a grave and rise again like this.
The club put a hand up to participate in Super Rugby AU last year when undermanned and not fit enough to go with the four other sides.
This year, they were ready and stocked with the right players. What has been harnessed has been huge heart and purpose and three wins in a row.
You’ve got to understand what it means for a player like Force stalwart Brynard Stander. Eight seasons at the club and finals for the first time.
Did we mention the crowd? Perth has a rugby passion that should never be ignored again.
The Force have made Super Rugby AU a success.
3 OLD DOG FIGHT
Veteran Tevita Kuridrani showed exactly how you bounce back from a costly yellow card for a spear tackle which put his side on the back foot early.
Kuridrani, 30, returned to make a string of purposeful runs and sure defensive reads.
Even more important was perhaps the turning point moment of the game.
His thumping tackle from the side floored Reds dangerman Hunter Paisami at the 30-minute mark. Paisami’s head clipped Sitaleki Timani as he hit the deck and he took no further role in the game.
4 TURNING INTO PUMPKINS
The Reds were on a plane as quickly as they could post-match to get out of Western Australia before the state’s midnight COVID lockdown.
Their 7-0 record now reads 7-1. A bit of hurt from a loss they like this won’t damage them at all. It will likely sharpen a few areas for the May 8 final at Suncorp Stadium.
Sure, the Reds could have kicked a penalty goal on full-time to lock the game at 30-all and go to golden point.
Setting a scrum to try to hatch a winning attack was just the scenario they may face in a tight final so, no problems here, with rehearsing the play.
The problem was the poor decision in using their lightest outside back, Josh Flook, to run a crash ball.
No one could possibly think that was a good option and he was held up in a turnover play when a maul was called.
Reds prop Taniela Tupou has now racked up 31 career tries in Super Rugby. That’s a remarkable stat.
His bumping, runaway rhino impression through five sets of flapping Force arms was all class for his try.
His deft behind-the back pass to flanker Fraser McReight was another sign of his rare skill set.
The Reds lose their scary scrum when he goes off but the Queenslanders had to get value by playing young tight-head prop Zane Nonggorr for the final 15 minutes to prepare him if he is needed in the final.
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