Hayward try takes Force to record fourth win

JIM MORTON
Last updated 00:00 06/04/2014

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The Western Force recorded a club-record winning streak thanks to a sensational late Jayden Hayward try that sunk Queensland 32-29 in a Super Rugby thriller on Saturday night.

Kiwi-born fullback Hayward beat three defenders in a dramatic 79th-minute try after 16 pressure-filled phases to produce the eighth and final lead change at Suncorp Stadium.

Quade Cooper had a chance to level what was a spiteful yet entertaining game after the hooter but his drop-goal attempt sailed just wide to the right.

A hobbling Cooper had handed the goal-kicking duties to Mike Harris in the second half and the inside centre's radar-boot had looked set to get the Reds home with four penalties.

But no one could take anything away from the Force, who scored three tries to two and continued to fight back whenever the home side looked to have gained the momentum.

The victory was the first time in the club's nine-season history they have won four straight and it puts them fourth on the table.

In a first half of niggle and big hits, the Force's intensity at the breakdown saw them skip ahead to a 12-0 lead midway through the first half thanks to four Sias Ebersohn penalty goals.

But the match turned when Angus Cottrell was sin-binned for a rib-rattling shoulder charge on Jake Schatz.

With the flanker on the sidelines, the Reds - who had bombed earlier try-scoring chances - cut loose with Cooper ultimately giving the last pass for the rejuvenated Ben Tapuai and James Slipper to stroll over.

While the Reds went bang-bang with tries from sweeping backline movements, the Force hit back through a 16-phase forwards try full of pick-and-drives and one-out plays before front-rowers Pek Cowan and Nathan Charles sent Ben McCalman over.

Force centre Junior Rasolea was a major casualty, suffering a suspected broken wrist, while lock Sam Wykes also limped off before the team's went to halftime at 17-17.

Reds teenager Jonah Placid finished with a chest injury in a forgettably brief debut that ended in a nasty collision with Hayward after a bad defensive read saw former Red Luke Morahan cross.

Reds coach Richard Graham cut a bitterly disappointed figure but defended the decision to go for the field goal to draw the match rather than press for a victory try.

Queensland were left to lament botching two try-scoring chances in an impressive start as both Tapuai and Rod Davies went close before mistakes were made.

"We didn't make the most of the opportunities that we created," skipper James Horwill bemoaned. "We turned the ball over and let them off the hook.

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"They're always a team that try to pressure you into mistakes and then make the most of those mistakes. They did that tonight and got a lot of pay out of it."

With a 3-4 win-loss return - their first inferior record since early 2010 - the Reds now face a must-win clash with the Brumbies at home on Friday night.

"It's a huge game for us," Horwill said. "It was always going to be but this result tonight magnifies that."

Counterpart Matt Hodgson, again among the Force's best with stand-out No.8 McCalman, said the fightback epitomised the belief within his side.

Hodgson said the club was "like a family" after enduring the pain of a tough 2013 that reaped only four wins out of 16 games.

"We have a belief in the group now that we can win the close ones," the flanker said.

But he wasn't entertaining thoughts of finals, preferring to look ahead to a chance at avenging their first-round hammering by NSW when they meet in Perth next Saturday night.

Rasolea will undergo scans for a suspected forearm fracture and coach Michael Foley admitted moving Kyle Godwin one place out to No 13 was a definite option.

Western Force 32 (Jayden Hayward, Ben McCalman, Luke Morahan tries Hayward con Sias Ebersohn 4 pens drop goal) Queensland Reds 29 (James Slipper, Ben Tapuai tries Quade Cooper 2 cons Michael Harris 4, Cooper pens) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Garratt Williamson. Crowd: 27,024

- AAP

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