The Western Force produced a stunning defensive performance to shock seven-time Vodacom Super Rugby champions, the Crusaders with a 16-14 victory in Perth on Saturday.
The Force continued to be the Crusaders' hoodoo team after a similar stunning performance in 2010 to record a victory when the teams last met in Australia.
On the night, the Force matched the Crusaders in every department, but it was in defence where they excelled, putting in several big hits and allowing the Crusaders little space to execute their gameplan despite a plethora of possession.
The Force came into the game as massive underdogs, but started with so much passion that it stunned the Crusaders, who were on their way back to Christchurch after two games in South Africa.
Sam Norton-Knight literally stunned the visitors when in the first attacking move, he attacked the gainline, found the defence wanting and surged his way through for the opening try.
A penalty by Jayden Hayward extended the lead to 10 points before Tyler Bleyendaal finally got the Crusaders onto the board.
The Crusaders are not a team that panics though, and simply continued to back their game plan, attacking from all corners of the field. It paid off for them as they strung nine phases together in the 20th minute, before hooker Corey Flynn busted free to let Luke Romano go over from close range.
Romano was denied shortly afterwards – one of two times he crossed the line without getting a try – as the TMO could not see the grounding of the ball, allowing the Force to breath a sigh of relief.
Hayward kicked two more penalties as the Crusaders were pinned at the breakdown, leaving his side 16-8 up at the break and thriving on the crowd support and momentum.
The second half saw the Crusaders up their game somewhat, and while they denied the Force possession for large periods at a time, their handling and penetration was not good enough as the home side produced some stern defence to keep them out.
On the two occasions they came close to the line, the Crusaders did manage to force a penalty and Bleyendaal lined it up to eat away at the deficit.
With 20 minutes to go, it looked as if the Crusaders were slowly swinging the momentum in their favour. But every attack was met with a similar defence, and the Crusaders, while doing everything in their power to win, could not find that special spark needed against a team that was defending as if their lives depended on it.
The Force held out, making tackle after tackle, and celebrated as if they had won the final when time ran out.
It was a win against the odds, and one that meant so much for the Force as they proved the cliché that coaches tell time and again: any side can beat another in this competition.
Force – Try: Sam Norton-Knight. Conversion: Jayden Hayward. Penalties: Hayward (3).
Crusaders – Try: Luke Romano. Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal (3).