Force hold out Crusaders
Western Force moved nine points clear of bottom side the Highlanders on Saturday after they shocked the Crusaders 16-14 at nib Stadium.
Victory was down to a never-say-die mentality that frustrated the seven-time champions, who remain in fourth place in the New Zealand conference.
The Force began the game with real momentum and opened the scoring in only the second minute when pivot Sam Norton-Knight stepped before reaching out to ground under the posts. Jayden Hayward's conversion made it 7-0 to the hosts.
It was the perfect start for the struggling Australian side after the Rebels had lost to the Kings in the previous match, opening the door for the hosts to possibly move off the bottom of their conference.
Hayward was on the mark again on eleven minutes with a penalty attempt after Crusaders flank Shane Christie was pinged for a ruck offence. That made the scoreline 10-0, much to the delight of the passionate Perth faithful.
The Crusaders were needing to get a grip on the game and being without the likes of Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Dan Carter and Sam Whitelock, the latter being a late inclusion on the bench, meant they were lacking experience.
However, young fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal did cut the gap to seven on seventeen minutes when a ruck offence from the Force gave the visitors their first points of the contest.
It proved to be the beginning of something of a turnaround in the game and when Luke Romano scored with a quarter played, the score was now 10-8 to the Western Force.
Full-back Hayward though added two more three-pointers before the break to send the teams in at 16-8, handing the hosts a decent cushion to work with in the second stanza.
And the Force would not trouble the scorers in the next 40 minutes as that aforementioned rugged attitude came to the fore, with the Crusaders throwing everything they had at them.
Big tackles were put in all over the field from the likes of Matt Hodgson and debutant Ed Stubbs in what was a well-earned four points for the men from Western Australia.
For Western Force:
Pen: Hayward 3
Pen: Bleyendaal 3
Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Alfie Mafi, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Ed Stubbs, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Richard Brown, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Rory Walton, 19 Chris Alcock, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Sias Ebersohn.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Tom Marshall, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Shane Christie, 6 George Whitelock (c), 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Telusa Veainu, 22 Zac Guildford.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)