Reds suffer shock loss to Rona-led Force
NRL convert Curtis Rona's first Super Rugby try proved a matchwinner as the fired-up Force beat the Reds 26-19 in a boilover at Perth's nib Stadium.
Fomer Bulldogs winger Rona crossed in the 69th minute to give the Force the lead - which they were able to defend with some heroic goalline defence.
It was the Force's first home win since beating the Waratahs in round 13, 2015 - 10 games and 663 long days ago.
A small but passionate crowd of 7008 watched on, hoping that a gorgeous sunset wasn't symbolic of their Super Rugby future.
The club's long-term status is in doubt as SANZAAR prepare for a meeting next Thursday to nut out the competition's format for 2018 and beyond.
The spirit shown by Dave Wessels' side - after losing key men Adam Coleman and Jono Lance - certainly can't hurt as the suits gather round the boardtable.
It came at the expense of his old team, but Fox Sports commentator Tim Horan was impressed.
"There's been a lot of talk about Australia losing their fifth team and the Western Force showed a lot of character tonight," Horan said.
It was a good night for codehoppers.
Reds winger Eto Nabuli had a hat-trick in a breakout performance, with the former Dragons flyer dotting down in the 19th, 21st and 49th minutes.
His second try was a wonderful long-range effort.
Force winger Chance Peni - who also has a league background - crossed in the second minute after the Force confused the Reds defence with some slick passing.
Lock Matt Philip was the Force's other try-scorer.
Philip levelled the scores in the 34th minute when he barged over from close range but shortly after lock partner Coleman left the field with a calf injury.
"He's copped a bit of a knock but we think he should be OK," Force assistant coach Joe Barakat told Horan.
It was 12-all at halftime.
Both sides are now 1-1.
The Force lost their opening match to the Waratahs while the Reds were first-up winners against the Sharks.