On a gorgeous Father’s Day Sunday, the campaigns of the Western Force and Brisbane City kicked off in front of a massive crowd at Norths Rugby Club in Brisbane. With the Force the favourites, could a Quade Cooper driven City squad upset the odds. Let’s find out.
Early on the teams split possession with the Force setting out to test rookie winger Emori Waqavalugi and it paid early dividends with the outnumbered Fijian jumping foolishly at a high psss, leaving veteran Rod Davies with the easiest of tries. Prior missed the conversion and it was 5-0 Force after seven.
City almost immediately hit back with sustained phase play featuring bruising runs from Brandon Paenga-Amosa and the Smith twins. Quick ball to the right from Sorovi to Cooper who neatly passed to Con Foley for a quick reply. Cooper nailed the kick and it was 7-5 to City with ten minutes gone. Just two minutes later a break from Davies earnt a penalty at the breakdown, and a kick to touch and a rolling maul put Jeremy Thursh over. Prior made no mistake with the kick and it was 12-7 with a little over twelve minutes gone.
At this point you sensed that both teams would keep pressing until someone broke, and City showed some real spirit. A kick out on the full from Davies led to an attacking lineout and after a few phases Jaye Thompson-Te Muunu got a ball from Cooper, straightened, gassed it and was over. A missed kick from Cooper had it 12-12 after just nineteen minutes.
The next ten minutes were messy as both teams caught breath with a number of forward passes and dropped balls. The next opportunity came to City who forced a penalty through a wonky Force scrum. This pushed City close to the line and a number of phases and a heart-in-mouth Cooper reverse flick later, Pat Morrey barged his way over. Cooper doinked the conversion from wide and it is 17-12 City with ten to go before the break.
Starved of possession at this point, a penalty found the Force down the City end, one phase off the lineout and fullback McGregor went over on the left with two outside him. Prior made no mistake and it is 19-17. City should have had the alarm bells ringing by now, being behind despite weight of possession and field position.
Soon after the kickoff Waqavalugi found himself on the receiving end of the cheese for a deliberate knockdown, which drew the ire of the partisan crowd. At this point you could see Andrew Deegan’s eyes light up with the opportunity before him. The Force pushed themselves upfield and prop Cameron Orr got a sniff of the line from about 15m out, and with two outside him decided to make a Quade Cooper shaped speed bump instead. Prior’s radar was on at this point and we go into half time with the Force 26-17 ahead.
Waqavalugi started the half in the naughty chair and again the Force took advantage after a charged down Cooper kick and assorted chaos. The left wing was wide open again and Davies took full advantage and went over. Prior wasn’t missing them now and it was suddenly 33-17.
City had one last real go and earnt a penalty close to the Force line. From the scrum Sorovi found Cooper running straight from deep and he went right through and scored. With the conversion it was now 33-24 and you sensed the next try would win it.
The Force dug deep and again pushed into City territory, and earnt a penalty. A rolling maul off the lineout resulted in some old school football, and a few backs joined in the maul and Feleti Kaitu’u drove over and with the kick it was 40-24.
City sensed this was their last chance and tried to throw caution to the wind, with offloads galore in a desperate attempt to claw the game back. Eventually a neat inside ball from Cooper to a lurking Jayden Ngamanu sent him over. Cooper had the wobbles with the kick and it remained 40-29.
The last fifteen minutes or so lacked any real spark as the benches emptied, with one exception. The Force took a lineout on their side of the half and drove it nearly 50m in a textbook display. Close to the line it was dropped earning reserve hooker Moli Sooaemaleagi a yellow card. Kaitu’u drove over again from the resulting maul and with Prior potting yet another it was 47-29 to the Force.
On the basis of this performance, you would have to think the Force will be there or thereabouts come the pointy end. A well drilled, cohesive team with firepower where it counts. City on the other hand, look as though they may struggle to put 80 minutes together with a lack of depth that is worrying.
THE GAME CHANGER
City had been targeting Emori Waqavalugi’s wing from the kick off but his dubious yellow card removed the problem entirely. Force put on two tries and were never really headed from this point. The yellow seemed even harsher when Jeremy Thrush got away with one that was arguably worse later in the game.
THE GAGR MOTM
While Deegan was outstanding, it was the delivery of his half that allowed him to play like that. Good control of the game, the ability to negate Sorovi’s sniping play from the ruck and 6 from 7 with the boot gets the nod. Kudos also to the entire Force pack who worked hard to negate the all-Reds front row.
Brandon Paenga-Amosa was strong and will be better for the run but it was Andrew Deegan who put his hand up. With the back up flyhalf spot a troublesome spot, could he force his way onto the spring tour, even as a development player?
Crowd: 4,500 (approx.)
SCORES & SCORERS
Brisbane City 29
Tries: Foley, Thompson-Te Muunu, Morrey, Cooper, Ngamanu
Cons: Cooper 2
Tries: Davies 2, Thrush, McGregor, Orr, Kaituu 2
Cons: Prior 6
CARDS & CITINGS
Yellow Cards: Waqavalugi, Sooaemaelagi- City. Force- Nil
HIGHLIGHTS FROM RUGBY AUSTRALIA