English winger Jordan Olowofela scored a hat-trick of tries as the Western Force secured a Super Rugby AU playoff spot with a 30-27 victory at Perth Oval on Friday that handed the Queensland Reds their first defeat of the season.
Set up by former All Black Richard Kahui, Olowofela crossed for his third try six minutes from time to give the home side the lead and they withstood wave after wave of attacks to secure post-season play for the first time in the team's 16-year history.
Roared on by a partisan crowd despite the news that Perth would go into a three-day COVID-19 lockdown at midnight on Friday, the Force typically secured the win against the odds after having three players sin-binned in the match.
"It's awesome. It's been a long time coming, since the inception of the Western Force," said skipper Kyle Godwin.
"Hats off to the boys, they created history tonight and I'm very proud of them. All credit to the Reds... I hope we get to play them again in two weeks' time."
The Reds had won their previous seven matches and have already secured home advantage for the final against the winners of next week's playoff between the ACT Brumbies and the Force in Canberra.
They looked every bit the champions elect as they raced to a 21-7 lead after 24 minutes on the back of tries from Wallabies Hunter Paisami, Taniela Tupou and Filipo Daugunu.
The Force revel in their fighting spirit, however, and battled back to within a point of parity soon after the break courtesy of Olowofela's first two tries and another from hooker Feleti Kaitu'u.
Two penalties from Reds first-five James O'Connor to one from Force playmaker Domingo Miotti allowed the Reds to extend their lead but the injection of Richard Kahui in the 74th minute proved decisive.
The former All Black dinked a grubber kick in behind the Reds defence and Olowofela snatched the ball out of O'Connor's hands before racing to the line to touch down and secure a third straight win for the Force.