Super Rugby

Super 14 2008, Force vs Crusaders score, review

Super 14 2008, Force vs Crusaders score, review

Western Force 24 –
Canterbury Crusaders 29

Despite conceding 17 unanswered points in the second half to lose the match, the Force stepped up to the plate today and in many ways outplayed this champion Crusader outfit. Gone were the dropped passes and turnovers. Back was the pace and width on the ball.

Noticeable was the complete transformation of the back-row; all three (including Fava with a bizarrely shaved beard) played excellent linking games, Brown and Pocock getting themselves on the score sheet. Pocock’s scrabbling on the ball was also first rate and you’d have to say he got the best of McCaw. They also combined excellently with Sharpe, who once again had a towering game as a runner.

Apart from a missed tackle on Carter to gift a try, Giteau stamped himself on the game. But the guy who shone above all others was Ryan Cross at 13. In the first half he was simply awesome, and in the same way that the kiwis have never been able to handle Mortlock, Cross was their nemesis today.

His upright power and pace, ability to take an angle and time a pass creating havoc. He had a hand in at least 2 tries and scored a solo effort by slicing back against the angle through the Crusaders line from 20 metres out. Even on the losing side, he was man of the match and certainly picked his game to stake a claim on a Wallaby jersey with Aussie Robbie sitting in the stands.

With another great try scored in open play by McKay in the 49th minute to make it 24-12, the ‘Saders looked lost. What the Force had got right until then was the mixture of structured and open play. They chose well when to run the taps and backed up in numbers when they did. When the shape got too loose they tightened things up and started again, avoiding the cardinal sins of giving the Crusdaders turnover ball or un-pressured counter attacks.

But then the ‘saders did what they do so well, landing two sucker-punches through a quickly taken penalty tap and then a well worked move down the blind with backup to spare. In three minutes the score went from 24-12 to 24-all. The game was perfectly balanced and you felt that the Force could well steal it back with a penalty kick to the corner in the 66th minute, when up stepped Cameron Shepherd to have one of his regular fµck-ups and miss touch. From that very kick, the Crusaders scored the deciding try.

While this was the one the got away, the Force do walk away with 2 points and perhaps most importantly the knowledge that they do have the game to beat the best.

For Western Force:
Tries: Pocock, Cross, Brown, MacKay
Cons: Giteau 2

For Crusaders:
Tries: Carter, Somerville, Williams, Ellis, Lualala
Cons: Carter 2

Western Force: 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Lachlan MacKay, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Chris O’Young, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Tamaiti Horua, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Tom Hockings, 3 AJ Whalley, 2 Tai McIsaac, 1 Gareth Hardy.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Troy Takiari, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 James Stannard, 21 Scott Daruda, 22 Josh Tatupu.

Crusaders: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Stephen Brett, 11 Caleb Ralph, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Kieran Read, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Reuben Thorne, 19 Nasi Manu, 20 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Tim Bateman, 22 Sean Maitland.

Referee: Willie Roos (South Africa)
Touch judges: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), James Scholtens (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)
Assessor: Brendan McCormick (Australia)

Super Rugby
@MattRowley

Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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