The Blues have held on to a hard-earned half time advantage to beat the Force in the wet in Perth.
The Force dominated the opening ten minutes with 70% possession & while Dane Haylett-Petty went close to scoring, they had just an Ian Prior penalty to show for it. Ihaia West made the most of a rare Blues foray into the Force half to level it up after 15 minutes.
The Blues then got into the game with some typically off-the-cuff play that eventually saw Jerome Kaino go over adjacent to the posts. West’s conversion made it 10-3 after 25 minutes.
The Force had nine phases of possession, went nowhere then coughed it up; two phases & 75m later Tevita Li went over for a stunning ensemble try that West converted for a 17-3 lead after 33 minutes.
The Force attacked hard in the five minutes before half time and were rewarded with Charlie Faumuina sin-binning after a series of penalties yet they couldn’t take advantage & went into the sheds down by 14, wondering why they weren’t a lot closer.
Half time: Blues 17-3 Force.
A poor take from Marcel Brache put the Force under immediate pressure as the rain returned & the Blues held the ball for 17 phases in a passage of play that went nowhere in particular but ran the sin bin clock down by three minutes.
Kyle Godwin looked to have scored after 50 minutes but Brache had taken a defender out in the lead up so referee Jamie Nutbrown went back ten (!) phases & awarded the Force a penalty from which they gained another penalty advantage 5m out. Matt Hodgson took the quick tap to crash over to make it 10-17 with Tapuai’s conversion.
A run of penalties gave the Force a try-scoring opportunity but Hodgson was too eager to take it quickly & knocked on. A fresh run of penalties resulted in Tapuai landing one from roughly 40m out to bring the scores to within four points after 65 minutes & shifting momentum in favour of the men from the West.
Yet another run of penalties got the Force to within 5m inside the final five minutes & another one-man advantage after Nic Mayhew got yellow carded for a blatant foul. With a minute left yet another penalty gave the Force a lineout 5m out but they lost the ball in the resulting maul.
Full time: Blues 17 (Kaino, Li tries; West con; West  pens) def. Force 14 (Hodgson try; Tapuai con; Prior, Tapuai pens)
The Game Changer
It really was a game of two halves & while there were momentum shifts there was nothing you could point to & say “that, right there, changed the game”.
The G&GR MOTM
Matt Hodgson, knocked-on quick tap attempt notwithstanding. Made his usual huge number of tackles, was industrious at the breakdown & bagged a try before coming off injured at the 72 minute mark.
Dane Haylett-Petty is clearly the best fullback in Australia right now but if Folau retains the 15 jersey then DHP needs to be one if the wingers.
Photos courtesy of “Delphy” thank you.