The incredible victory for the Force at the weekend over the Waikato Chiefs must rank as the franchise’s greatest result. At no point in the clubs history have they achieved a win of this magnitude and it bodes incredibly well for the rest of the season.
The boys in blue were brave, disciplined and accurate with their work, particularly at set piece time. So many of their team put their hand up and took it right to their vaunted opponents.
There was a fear before the game that the Chiefs would just steamroll the Force once their relentless pack got going, but it never happened. The Force were able to disrupt scrums and line outs, exert great pressure on all Chiefs ball, and most importantly, slow the ball right down. Matt Hodgson was the key to this. It should of course be mentioned that he scored two well taken tries but it was the work on the ground that caught my eye. That valuable two or three seconds that he bought for his team allowed the defence to re-align and co-ordinate their positioning.
Aaron Cruden could only see a wall of blue shirts on front of him when he looked up. The line speed was tremendous from every defender and it forced the chiefs to kick back to Jaydon Hayward, who dealt with everything that came his way.
The hunger and attitude of the Western Force must be commended. They outfought the Chiefs and out-willed them. They were harder in contact. It’s rare for the Chiefs to be found wanting in the desire department but it seemed they lacked a bit of motivation. It’s very easy to use this as an excuse or the main reason why the Force were able to win, but there are three pieces of evidence to support this. Firstly, how many times have you seen the Chiefs concede tries from rolling mauls or after a few phases close their line? Normally, the Chiefs led by Messam, display manic aggression in the preservation of their line. In one game against the Crusaders a couple of years ago, the Chiefs defended on their own line for 17 phases before winning the ball and clearing. Have the Force a more formidable attack than the Crusaders then or now? No, not even close, yet the Force were able to get over for two reasonably simple tries.
Secondly, the Chiefs bench was emptied with fifteen minutes ago as it slowly dawned on their management that the game was slipping away from them. The faces of those replaced looked to me, to be apathetic to what was going on. The likes of McIntosh, Muliaina and Scwhalger were laughing and joking, not at all disturbed by the fact that they were part of a team that were being roundly beaten in every department.
Finally, Wayne Smith and company have wielded the axe this week for the Chief’s trip to Pretoria to take on the Bulls. Wholesale changes have been made, indicating that the management of the Chiefs were clearly dissatisfied with their team’s effort in Perth. There were three or four men for me that really stood out. Hodgson was everywhere and has led from the front from the beginning of the season. Sias Ebersohn is now fulfilling the promise he showed in South Africa and is rapidly developing into the player he was threatening to be a few years ago. Junior Rasolea is growing game by game, his performances are showing a steady vertical progression. Nathan Charles is a dynamo and an able side kick for Hodgson around the park.
To conclude, yet another team has come to Perth and underestimated their opponents. Sure captain Aaron Cruden paid the usual lip service to the difficulty of the challenge the Force present, “we know how good the Force are...etc. We will have to be at our best...etc”, but they certainly didn’t play like they were ready for anything as the Force put them to the question from the outset.
The Force have yet again shown that a hardworking, well drilled accurate outfit, who wear their hearts on their sleeves can achieve great things in the sport of Rugby Union Football.
Roll on the rest of the season,
Over and out,