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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
SCORE & SCORERS
Tries: Hodgson 1
Conversions: Prior 1.
Tries: Messam 1
Conversions: Cruden 1
Penalties: Cruden 3