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Preview – Force v Blues

Ben McCalman - one of the best for the Force this year - Photo courtesy of "Delphy"
Preview – Force v Blues

The Force, fresh from the bye and big winners last time out, host the Blues, badly mauled by the Lions in their last start, following three straight wins.

It’s been a rough few months for the men from the West. The win over the Sunwolves was just their second for the year after seven straight losses, many of them by big margins.  In the overall standing they rank 16th out of 18.

The Blues, meanwhile, looked to be on the improve – three straight wins for the first time in several years, including the first away from home since 2013 – before being brought back to earth by the Lions last week. They currently rank 11th overall.

Attack

Force – By any measure they have been a poor attacking side in 2016, having scored the fewest tries and second-fewest points of any team in the competition. They’re also in the bottom four for clean breaks, defenders beaten, and average metres made .  On a positive note they’re No. 1 for goal kicking with a 93% success rate—and Dane Haylett-Petty has the second-most carries of any player.

Blues – By comparison they are surprisingly third for defenders beaten, but are otherwise fair to middling: twelfth for both tries and points scored, ninth for clean breaks, seventh for offloads, and eighth for for average metres made. Their goal kicking has been poor at just 67%, yet Ihaia West has still managed more penalty goals than anyone else.

Defence

The Force haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory defensively, either, conceding a whopping 321 points: only the Sunwolves and Kings have leaked more; but the Blues aren’t much better shipping 261.

Matt Hodgson has made a staggering 145 tackles this season, 26 more than the next-best Michael Hooper; but collectively the Force are third-worst in missed tackle percentage whereas the Blues are fourth-best.

The Lions thrashed an uninterested Blues’ team last week

The form

Before the bye the Force had another of their good first halves of the season, in Tokyo, but they also had one of their scrappy second halves.  Although they have lost all five home games this year and don’t have a great record against the Blues, they will  fancy themselves to give a bit of cheek to this Kiwi side.

The Blues were  so poor in the rain in Johannesburg last week it beggared belief.  The Lions scored in the first minute and had won the game after twelve with their third try, which set up a lead of 19-0.  The Blues never looked interested in the game and went down 5-43.

This was the bad-old Blues of recent years.  To make matters worse Kiwi teams often struggle in Perth when heading home from South Africa. and the Blues aren’t great playing away games anyway, having won only one of their last 14.

Prediction

If the Blues played as they did against the Lions they will be well-beaten, but you can’t  expect them to be so poor twice in a row.  They could bounce back (how could they not?) but I’m picking the Force to go back-to-back and take out a tight one.

Force by 3

Kyle Godwin – in the starting side again

Team lists & details

The Force have made one change to their starting XV, Ben Tapuai replacing Junior Rasolea at outside centre, and three changes to their bench: props Pek Cowan and Rory Walton for Chris Heiberg and Steve Mafi – and Luke Burton for Peter Grant in the backs.

The Blues have made three changes. Melani Nanai moves from wing to fullback with Matt Duffie taking his place and Lolagi Visinia drops out of the 23. At halfback Billy Guyton starts instead of  Bryn Hall, and lock Josh Bekhuis comes in for Hoani Matenga; both replaced players go to the bench.

Force

1. Francois Van Wyk
2. Harry Scoble
3. Guy Millar
4, Ross Haylett-Petty
5. Adam Coleman
6. Byrnard Stander
7. Matt Hodgson (c)
8. Ben McCalman
9. Alby Mathewson
10. Ian Prior
11. Luke Morahan
12. Kyle Godwin
13. Ben Tapuai
14. Marcel Brache
15. Dane Haylett-Petty


Reserves:
16. Anaru Rangi
17. Pek Cowan
18. Tetera Faulkner
19. Rory Walton
20. Angus Cottrell
21. Ryan Louwrens
22. Luke Burton
23. Semi Masirewza

Blues

1. Sam Prattley
2. James Parsons (c)
3. Charlie Faumuina
4. Patrick Tuipulotu
5. Josh Bekhuis
6. Jerome Kaino
7. Tanerau Latimer
8. Steven Luatua
9. Billy Guyton
10. Ihaia West
11. Tevita Li
12. Piers Francis
13. George Moala
14. Matt Duffie
15. Melani Nanai


Reserves:
16. Quentin MacDonald
17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
18. Sione Mafileo
19. Hoani Matenga
20. Kara Pryor
21. Bryn Hall
22. Matt McGahan
23. Male Sa’u

 



Date: Saturday, May 21


Venue: nib Stadium, Perth


Kick-off: 19:45 local; 21:45 AEST


Referee: Jamie Nutbrown


Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffman, Jordan Wray


TMO: Peter Marshall

Statistics courtesy of Opta Sports.

 

 

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