SYDNEY (Reuters) - Wallabies centre Hunter Paisami scored two tries as the Queensland Reds moved to the top of the Super Rugby AU standings with a hardfought 26-19 victory over Western Force at Lang Park in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Reds, who staged a stunning comeback to beat the ACT Brumbies in Canberra last week, leapfrogged the reigning champions at the top of the table with their fourth win in four matches this season.
They raced to a 14-3 lead after 17 minutes on the back of scores from scrumhalf Tate McDermott and Paisami but were pegged back by a Feleti Kaitu'u try in the second quarter and held only a 14-13 lead at the break.
Force flyhalf Jake Mcintyre kicked his third penalty after 50 minutes to edge the visitors ahead, but the lead lasted only two minutes before Paisami burst through the defensive line and raced away to score his second.
Mcintyre levelled up the scores at 19-19 four minutes later with his fourth penalty, but rugby league convert Suliasi Vunivalu broke free of the Force defence in the 67th minute to set up a converted try for Reds fullback Jock Campbell.
The visitors would not lie down, however, and the Reds were forced to dig deep as the Force battered away at their defensive line in the last 10 minutes.
"We found a way to win but to be honest that was pretty poor from us," said Reds skipper James O'Connor.
"We weren't clinical at all, we didn't stick to our gameplan and there were too many dropped balls. We need to regroup because that just wasn't on tonight, it's not what the fans deserve."
A bonus point gave the Reds a three-point lead over the Brumbies halfway through the regular season. The Melbourne Rebels are third, three points behind the Brumbies, with the Perth-based Force a further five points back.
The winless New South Wales Waratahs, who host the Reds next weekend, are bottom with a single losing bonus point from four matches.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Hugh Lawson)