Western Force 10 – Sharks 22
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Watching both the Tahs and Force today was the rugby equivalent of coitus interruptus. Prolonged foreplay, relentless pounding, exciting climax….and then a damp squibb. In the meantime the Saffas and Kiwis, having barely got a sniff of space, had ripped off three quickies and were already down the pub gloating about it.
The Force worked their arses off for bugger all. Time and time again Cross, Sharp and Hodgson created great targets in midfield for poor clearing at the rucks to turn fast ball into slow, or even worse, to leave the ball waiting out the back for the Sharks to wander through and help themselves.
This one simple, but crucial weakness cost the Force this important home game, against a Sharks outfit who were happy to sit back and wait. And pounce the Saffas then did, scoring three length of the field tries that all originated from breakdown errors from the force deep in Sharks territory.
Despite the heartbreak, there was a lot for the Force to be positive about on an individual player basis. Outshining Giteau today was James O’Connor at fullback. You can’t say enough about this kid. Just as for the Wallabies vs the BaaBaas last year, he looked like he’d been playing 15 professionally forever, even though he was playing 12 last week and is only 18. He’s composed, varies his option, beats a man every time and is incredibly resilient on his feet considering his size. I’d go as far as to say he’s only fractionally behind Gerrard as Australias best fullback right now.
Despite leaving the breakdown too loose, the backrow showed some good promise. Hodgson was busy both running and tackling, I liked Horuas mongrel and Pocock is already a very good fetcher. Valentine’s service and boot are strong, but he wants the ball on a platter before clearing it and Bryce Lawrence was happy to let the yaapies lie on the wrong side.
But despite these glimmers, make no mistake this loss was bad news for the Force. By the end of the game they’d simply run out of ideas. Despite having the ball at the death, and a potenital losing bonus point in their grasp, Giteau gave up and kicked to touch. You sense that with it went any realistic shot at the finals for the Force.
For Western Force:
Tries: Pietersen, Ndungane, Kockott
Con: Kockott 2
Yellow card: Deon Carstens (Sharks) – obstructing a pass on 34 minutes
Force: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Junior Pelesasa, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau , 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Tamaiti Horua, 7 David Pocock, 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Tom Hockings, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Tai McIsaac, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 AJ Whalley, 18 David Pusey, 19 Richard Stanford, 20 Chris O’Young, 21 Josh Tatupu, 22 Haig Sare.
Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Keegan Daniel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller (c), 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit, 1 Deon Carstens.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Monty Dumond, 22 Luzuko Vulindlu.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Nathan Pearce (Australia), Daniel Cheever (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)