Of all the Aussie games from last weekend, the one that’s had the least press around here has been the Western Force let down against the Blues by 19-25 at home. I know there are a few who are backing the beefy Aucklanders to go far this year, but it seemed to me that the Western Australian’s loss was largely self-inflicted.
Scanning through the game a second time, the basic pattern of play was for the Force to
1 – turn over the ball deep in their own half, either through botched set piece or breakdown infringement,
2 – apply the brand of drift defence that doesn’t just move across field, but also back diagonally to their own try line at about 45 degrees. The blues only had to hang on for more than 3 phases and they’d find themselves falling over the Force’s try line.
To be blunt the defence across the backline was piss-poor, lacking any sort of commitment to aggressive defence, which is a bit of a worry with 4 Wallabies being scattered through it. Even though they were within a converted try of winning at the end, you never got the feeling they thought they could do it.
I hope for the Force’s, and Aussie rugby’s sake that this isn’t the answer to the question as to whether the Mitchell farce will unite or destroy the team. There’s too much A grade talent in this team for it to take the mantle of a young development side, like Mooney’s Reds, this year.
On a positive note, Brown at 8 and especially Pocock at 7 had outstanding games, the latter being like shit on a blanket over the ball. Unfortunately the way Brycie Lawrence reffed the game – it’s OK to flop over the ball, but not stand and contest it – really didn’t suit the good work he was putting in. Gits also looked composed at 10, with a good all-round kicking game and trademark miracle pill.
In theory, having competition’s whipping boys – the Cheetahs – at home this week should be a good way to pick themselves up. The Force have made 5 changes including wunderkind O’Connor at 12. We could also see a return of the uncompromising Staniforth, should a mysterious bruised shoulder to Ryan Cross prevail. The ex-Mungo and Wallaby didn’t seem to know about it when yanked off in the second half mouthing “what the fuck for?” half a dozen times.
Western Force to face the Cheetahs: Cameron Shepherd, Nick Cummins, Ryan Cross, James O’Connor, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Josh Valentine, Richard Brown, David Pocock, Tamaiti Horua, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Pat O’Connor, Ben Castle, Tai McIsaac, Gareth Hardy. Res: Luke Holmes, Kieren Longbottom, Tom Hockings, Matt Hodgson, Chris O’Young, Josh Tatupu, Scott Staniforth.