Rugby

Western Force caned but miracles do happen

Western Force caned but miracles do happen
A rabbit out of the hat?

A rabbit out of the hat?

You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that two into one won’t go. However, one into two is an entirely different matter.

In a miracle of modern science as ground breaking as the Theory of Relativity James Rabbit O’Connor created a new position in the game of rugby at the Cake Tin yesterday.

Not only did he occupy the fullback position during the game but the flyhalf as well, all at the same time. He’s the new ‘flyback’ with the number 1510 on his shirt.

It’s a little like Claytons, the flyhalf you have when you don’t really have a flyhalf. No wonder John Mitchell didn’t name Rabbit at 10 beforehand, keeping this scientific breakthrough under wraps until game day, not wanting the opposition to discover an antidote beforehand.

And you know what? Despite going down 47-22 the experiment worked a treat. O’Connor was outstanding as the flyhalf/first receiver in any attacking situation be it at scrum, lineout, ruck or maul where Force possession was assured.

O’Connor is a natural with all the distribution and kicking skills required for the position. The Force should actually be looking for a replacement Marquee fullback from overseas as they’ve already got their own Danny Cipriani.

In the meantime Sam Harris, the ‘virtual flyhalf’, spent most of the game at inside centre where he belonged. Unfortunately, when he was required to undertake a few flyhalf type kicking duties they bombed miserably.

Dane Haylett-Petty temporarily occupied the fullback spot at times and performed solidly, apart from the odd missed tackle.

The Force were in this game until about halftime. The Hurricanes flew out of the blocks and led 18-3 in the first quarter with tries to Cory Jane and the dynamic David Smith.

However, a very good counter-attacking try by Josh Tatupu in the 33rd minute brought them back into the match and the Force finished the half strongly.

O’Connor’s conversion attempt of the Tatupu try hit the upright, bounced down onto the crossbar and back into the field of play.

No doubt Einstein would have had a theory about all this but I’d say it was more than likely influenced by adiabatic principles and action-angle variables; wouldn’t you?

The Force defence in the first half was impressive and kept the Hurricanes scoring to a minimum. There was no shirking of responsibility and although you knew that the skill level of those opposite would tell in due course the Sandgropers manned-up in the tackle.

In the second half there was really only one team in it and some would say it was probably a miracle they weren’t flogged by more. But that’s being a little bit unkind as the youngsters conjured up two more tries to the Hurricanes four.

Rabbit timed a beautiful pass to Haylett-Petty for a five pointer and replacement half O’Young scored after a powerful Tatupu break.

Patterson, David Smith (his 2nd), Tialata and replacement halfback Tyson Keats all scored for the Canes.

Young Aaron Cruden, the next big thing in NZ rugby, made an appearance at first five eighth late in the game and you could see that the reports aren’t exaggerated.

At scrum time the Hurricanes were dominant with Tialata, Hore and Schwalger outscrummaging their opponents.

Matt Dunning had an unhappy night at loosehead and when he was replaced in the 59th minute he blew up with a string of profanities which no doubt reached all the way up into the coaches box….

The Force lineout operated efficiently and matched the Canes. Pek Cowan’s lineout throwing wasn’t an issue.

Apart from O’Connor, Matt Hodgson was again superb in the loose. If he isn’t the backup Wallabies No 7 this year then I’ll eat my hat – better still, my G&GR T-shirt. Sorry Tah’s fans, Phil Waugh won’t get a look in. A powerful performance in attack and defence.

Nathan Sharpe also had a great game leading from the front with a Captain’s knock. Young Ben McCalman impressed with his workrate.

In the backs Tatupu looked more comfortable at outside centre rather than inside and it was good to see a gaggle of new young bench players on debut.

Unfortunately the Force are already gone for 2010 and need to regroup before the Chiefs arrive on their way home from Saffaland.

If they can retrieve some of their injured players, improve their one-on-one tackling later in the game and put pressure on a non-existent Chiefs defence then miracles really can happen.

Wallaby Watch

Put his hand up: James O’Connor* was terrific at ‘flyback’. Although they were well beaten, he kept them in the game with his skill and generalship.

Did himself no favours: Tucky Dunning – was outscrummaged by Tialata and had great difficulty with his ear /hand coordination before the referee said ‘touch’.

Bolter watch: Ben McCalman – was impressed with his workrate this week and off the bench in the Brumbies game.

*Matt Hodgson was equally impressive in all facets of 7 play and needs to be mentioned in despatches.

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