FORCE 26 REDS 19
Queensland Reds winger Eto Nabuli scored a hat-trick of tries, but it wasn't enough to stop his side suffering a 26-19 Super Rugby loss to the Western Force at nib Stadium on Thursday night.
The Reds led 19-12 in the 49th minute after Nabuli ran onto a perfectly-weighted grubber kick from Duncan Paia'aua to score his third try.
But Sef Fa'agase's yellow card in the 67th minute for a no-hands tackle proved costly, with the Force taking the lead via a 69th-minute try to rugby league convert Curtis Rona.
The Reds had a chance to draw it at the death when they pushed for a try in the final few seconds, but the Force won the ball back to secure victory.
The result ended the Force's 10-match losing streak at home.
More importantly, it's given Force fans a reason to dream this season as the franchise fights for its survival in the competition.
But the win came at a cost, with Wallabies lock Adam Coleman limping off in the 34th minute with a calf injury.
Coleman, whose Spring Tour with the Wallabies was brought to a premature end after straining a ligament in his left knee, could hardly move his left leg as trainers helped him off the ground.
The Force made the best possible start to the match when a series of quick passes unleashed winger Chance Peni for a try after just 65 seconds.
But the 7008 crowd were stunned when Nabuli scored two tries in the space of two minutes to swing the momentum the other way.
Nabuli's second try in the 19th minute was particularly special, with the 28-year-old Fijian sidestepping two Force defenders before racing 75m to the line.
Reds five-eighth Quade Cooper was left with a bloodied face after a first-half clash of heads with Force skipper Heath Tessmann.
Cooper was able to play on, but he was on the receiving end of a number of big Force tackles.
Force lock Matt Philip scored his first Super try in the 34th minute to level the scores at 12-12 at the break.
Peni looked dangerous every time he went near the ball.But it was Nabuli who was wreaking havoc on the scoreboard.
Nabuli had only scored one try in his 16 previous Super appearances.But he had his third of the night when he ran onto Paia'aua's grubber kick to score in the corner.
The Force never looked out of the contest despite Nabuli's heroics, and the home side produced the goods when it mattered most in the second half, combining gutsy defence with flairy attacking raids.