Review: Force vs. Chiefs - Green and Gold Rugby
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Review: Force vs. Chiefs

Review: Force vs. Chiefs

The Western Force have gone down in a nail-biting affair against the Chiefs in front of 14,000 strong crowd on a hot evening in Perth to remind all of Super Rugby (and especially some people who will not be named on the East Coast), that rugby is very much alive and well in the West, and that Aussies can ACTUALLY PLAY RUGBY. 

Australian rugby had been, to put it at it’s mildest, god awful in Round 9. However, as they have for most rounds this year, the Force made a great game of it against their much more fancied opponents.

"Ziggy" Fisi’ihoi setting up Liam Messam try

“Ziggy” Fisi’ihoi gets tackled by Matt Hodgson, but sets up Liam Messam try

THE MATCH

1st Half

The Chiefs were expected to dominate, given their squad was filled with plenty of in-form All Blacks looking to impress for the upcoming Lions tour, and it didn’t take long for the men from Waikato to get on the board, with Aaron Cruden finding himself in space in the 8th minute.

The Force provided some desperate covering defence, but Liam Messam was able to quickly recycle and crash over the line for the first points of the game, 7-0.

Dane Haylett-Petty in typical pose before he had to retire injured

Dane Haylett-Petty in typical pose before he had to retire injured

But if there was any indication that the match was going to be yet another dominating display by the Kiwis, it well and truly ended there.

The match turned into a gritty war of attrition, as the Force felt the momentum of the solid crowd behind them.

At the 21st minute, Wallaby Dane Haylett-Petty was forced off with a potential hamstring injury, but that didn’t stop the Force. If anything, they got hungrier.

Isi Naisarani pushes Matt Hodgson forward to score.

Isi Naisarani pushes Matt Hodgson forward to score.

Their persistence was finally rewarded in the 31st minute when, off a brilliant orchestrated rolling maul, the heart and soul of the Force, Matt Hodgson (with help from Isi Naisarani) crashed over for the Force’s reply, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Prior converted and it was all locked up at 7 points apiece. It would stay this way into half-time, despite some threatening play from the Chiefs in the final few minutes.

Alex Newsome and Damian McKenzie go for a high ball

Alex Newsome and Damian McKenzie go for a high ball

2nd Half

The Chiefs came out flying in the second half, pinning the Force back in their own half and winning a penalty. Surprisingly,  they chose to take the three points instead of going for the try, which Cruden nailed.

But the Chiefs weren’t done yet. Over the next ten minutes, Damian McKenzie made a nuisance of himself out on the wing, breaking through the Force’s defensive lines several times but being unable to turn it into points due to excellent scrambling defence from the home side.

Aaron Cruden goes for goal

Aaron Cruden goes for goal

The pressure was starting to build against the Force though, and a high tackle penalty made the Chiefs grab three more points in the 54th minute.

Ten minutes later, the Chiefs went for the killing blow in going for a try, however, Cruden tapped off the mark, allowing the Force defence to reset. Cruden then instead took the three points, 7-16, almost as a sign of respect to the quality defence the Force were putting up.

The ‘Blue Wall’ was certainly back tonight.

Lewis Carmichael stops Sam McNichol

Lewis Carmichael stops Sam McNichol

The Force had been gradually emptying their reserve bench over the second half, but went all out in the final few minutes.

The Chiefs nearly grabbed that elusive second try in the 75th minute when Stephen Donald forced a mistake from Billy Meakes, however it was ruled he knocked the ball on in the tackle and the try was disallowed.

That was the way the score remained until the final whistle.

Final Score: Western Force 7 – 16 Chiefs

Biggest Force victory was off the field

Biggest Force victory was off the field

The Force:

They may have lost the game, but the Force’s biggest victory tonight was off the field. The rugby faithful of WA were (once again) simply outstanding, with a solid crowd turning out to show their support for the club as the threat of being axed hangs over them.

The Force threw everything they had at the Chiefs and left nothing on the paddock, and the fans, judging by their comments after the game, knew it. The almost unanimously positive talk from the Force faithful post-game was a truly great sight.

Ben Daley

Ben Daley charges in tackle of Finlay Christie

The players may have earned themselves a few more supporters after tonight. They put the Waratahs and Brumbies to shame with their heart and dedication, and it was a performance to be proud of.

David Wessels made it clear though that he wasn’t happy with the performance, as he should be. He knows they will have to step up to against the Lions next week.

McKenzie looks for support when tackled by Carmichael

McKenzie looks for support when tackled by Carmichael

The Chiefs:

It wasn’t pretty, but they got the job done. The Chiefs can hold their heads high considering how strenuous the three-match tour has been. They were up against a determined side tonight, and they still came through strong, and I have a feeling this victory is going to prove crucial come finals time.

Dave Rennie however looked very disappointed with his teams performance, and believed that the Chiefs could have played better if they had applied more pressure in the first half, and didn’t make scrappy mistakes.

Regardless, a win is a win, and they can now look forward to being back home in Waikato again. They face the Sunwolves next week.

 The Game Changer:

The Chiefs pressure at the end of the first half set the precedence for the second half.

They won the game by chipping away at the Force, which proved the difference in the end.

The G&GR MOTM:

While Matt Hodgson was inspirational (as always) for the home side, the prize for this week goes to Aaron Cruden.

He was instrumental in the go-forward the Chiefs had, which in the end won them the match.

Wallaby Watch:

I don’t bloody care if he’s 35, Matt Hodgson was outstanding tonight. A cool head on the field, he was instrumental in the Force’s defence efforts. Special mention to Jonno Lance when he was on the field, and Billy Meakes had his moments too – both are Wallabies in waiting here.

Photos by “Delphy” – thank you


 

The Details

Crowd: 14,089

SCORE & SCORERS

Western Force: 7
Tries: Hodgson 1
Conversions: Prior 1.
Penalties: None
Chiefs: 16
Tries: Messam 1
Conversions: Cruden 1
Penalties: Cruden 3

CITINGS & CARDS: None

  • Simon Powell

    Nick – Thank you for an excellent write up

  • Tommy Brady

    Respect to the Force who have come together admirably as a group (and fan base) and playing like a team who are literally and figuratively fighting for their lives. Compare that to the efforts of the Brumbies and Waratahs on Friday night who both just rolled over when the pressure went on.

    What cannot be overlooked though is Cameron Clyne’s reference to the same amount of effort not always being there. After all, the numbers don’t lie do they? I also know that when the question got raised to him by the Force in 2012, a person in Australian rugby of very high regard told them under no circumstances should they hire Michael Foley as Head Coach. They did. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

    • ForceFan

      The prejudice against Michael Foley is astounding.

      The Force had its best season in 2014 – under Michael Foley – with 9 wins from 16 games.
      There were more issues at play than the coach including being starved of critical funds which effected player selection, development, fitness and recovery.
      The ARU also stopped the Future Force funding which was recommenced in 2016 with much fanfare as if it was something new.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Well written Nick and a good summary of a great match. The Force were very very good and showed more heart in the first 20 mins than the Tahs produced all game. They pressured the Chiefs into a lot of mistakes and the game was great to watch. I agree that the Chiefs hanging onto this one could well prove huge as the competition moves on. They weren’t allowed to play their normal flowing match but still hung on for the win.
    Restored my faith in Australian rugby

  • Simon Powell

    One thing is certain after this match – The Force have, with out a doubt, the best Head Coach in Australian Rugby right now.

  • Nigel Beavis

    If a decision has to be made based on this seasons performances against the adversity created by the ARU, the Western Force would get my vote. All talks of SANZAAR wanting a change next season is for international gain and nothing for Australian Rugby. Stop this negative talk until 2020.

  • The Badger

    How was that Chief’s prop not sighted for the tiptackle on Polota Nau?

Rugby
@Nick_Wasiliev

Die-hard Brumbies/Country Eagles fan now based in Sydney. Author, anthropologist, musician, second rower. Still trying to make sense of the 21st century. About to drop a book...

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