The Force have finally emerged victorious after a long drought against the Lions last night.
It was a scrappy affair and at times I thought the ground announcer might bust out the Benny Hill music, but in the end sheer weight of numbers nudged it in the Forces favour.
The game started a bit like last week, with the away side scoring a well worked try against a pretty tardy defence. It looked like threatening to continue for a while as well, with the Lions keeping the ball in hand and pressing into the Forces 22. After about 15 minutes, however, the game seemed to change around and the Lions hardly had their hands on the pill long periods thereafter. There was a lot of dropped ball and there were a lot of penalties at the breakdown (eventually leading to a Lions player being binned) and the game wasn’t the greatest spectacle.
The Force seemed to have a slightly different mind set this week, especially in attack. I haven’t seen the stats, but I have a suspicion that they ran more and kicked less than in other games this season. Now a fair bit of that ball running was a bit lateral, but at least the intent was there. Mafi and Cummins were prepared to run straight and hard back towards the Lions defence on kick return, rather than kick it back. Perhaps they were instructed to adopt “no guts, no glory” approach? Ben Seymour looked to give the ball a bit more air and that’s a good thing. What is required now are angles and deception to break open the defence more often. The pack showed greater urgency at the breakdown and definitely cleared the ball more quickly from the ruck base, with the midfield runners mostly being hit with passes while they were moving forward. Unsurprisingly, this led to the Force getting over the gain line a lot more often than we’ve observed recently. The other thing they did was to play a tighter formation in the maul, meaning that there were more bodies pushing from behind in the tackle area. This sometimes led to the Lions holding the ball up and getting scrum feed, but as often as not it led to big metres being gained. More of that please.
It’s hard to say a lot about how the Lions played after the first quarter of the game, because they hardly saw the ball for long periods, until they decided to throw it around a bit towards the end. They just couldn’t get their hands on it in general play. Their lineout was good and won some ball against the throw and their maul defence was quite effective in that it won them scrum ball. The problem for them was that the weight of possession against them and the inside defence of the Force took their best attacking weapons away from them, in the form of their 10/12 pair. Jaco Taute going off injured in the first half also didn’t help. Consequently, apart from his first half try, Michael Killian didn’t see a lot of the ball. There was also a lot of infringing at the breakdown, which eventually exhausted the patience of the referee. A yellow card against Derek Minnie when they were already behind on the scoreboard effectively snuffed out their chances.
In the end the Force were arguably deserved winners mainly due to their superior possession and field position. Better finishing might have seen them further in front at the end, but I suspect that they’ll take a win any way it comes.
Force 17 (Pocock, Nalaga tries; Seymour 2 convs; Seymour pen) beat Lions 11 (Killian try; Jantjies, Combrinck pens)
Ref: Garratt Williamson
Pek Cowan and Jaco Taute walked off the field looking pretty sore. Cowan’s looked like and ankle and Taute’s a shoulder. It’s unknown at this stage how bad either injury is.
I reckon it was a couple of minutes before half time, when the Lions mounted one of their few attacking forays into the Force 22. They were hard up against the line and the Force defence remained fairly resolute. The Lions gave away a penalty at the breakdown and that was half time. Had they score there, I doubt there would have been any way back for the Force in the second half.
David Pocock. The man was a colossus last night. He tackled his heart out, stole the ball at the breakdown and contributed a lot of go forward metres, including his own try. This game was Exhibit A of why he is so important to his team. It was also a reminder of what his competition are chasing for the Wallaby 7 jersey.
The Talking Point
The skill level was pretty poor the most part and it’s consequently not that surprising that these two teams are at the bottom of the ladder. There were many missed scoring opportunities due to poor handling and plain old skill errors. Much to work on for both sides I think.