A six-try performance from the Western Force has seen them defeat the Asia-Pacific Dragons in their final trial match before they undertake their 10th season of Asteron Life Super Rugby.
The match was for the most part dominated by the Western Force forwards both offensively and defensively. They were able to exploit the Dragons who relied heavily on their backline swinging the ball wide and attempting to scramble.
The Asia-Pacific Dragons opened up the match with some very fast paced offense and a strong kicking game. This was broken up by the Force who started up their offense when Steve Mafi broke the line, getting them into their 22 for the first time. A strong rolling maul and a cross-field kick by Sias Ebersohn hit Dane Haylett-Petty on the chest who strolled in for the Force’s opening try.
A grubber kick opened up a line break opportunity for Marcel Brache, who flicked it to Alby Mathewson, giving Godwin the ball to cross the line for a try.
The Dragons then began to get moving, with strong defence and a commanding offence. This was once again stopped by a Western Force try, when Luke Morohan crossed the line off a scrum play, with the assist coming from Sias Ebersohn.
The away side began to move the ball well, scrambling the field and keeping the Force defence on their toes, but it was the amount of unforced errors that stopped them from breaking the line, giving a dominant Western Force forward pack a number of scrum feeds.
Pek Cowan then crossed the line off the back of a rolling maul, created by a throw to the back of the lineout on the five-metre line. This showed the continuous dominance from the Western Force forward pack, who weren’t giving up an inch of space.
Afa Fa’tau tested the Force’s scrambling defence when he broke the line, but the home side was able to pull together and prevent the play from creating anything further.
The Dragons gave up a continuous amount of costly penalties, putting the Force in their own 22, and opening up space for the forwards to potentially score. They soon attempted to catch the Force backline unawares, by swinging the ball out wide and forcing them to scramble. They would constantly get their backs involved in the play, hardly allowing their forwards to do any of the work against the Force’s devastating pack.
Peter Samu then crossed the line for the invitational Pacific Islands on a pick and go, giving the away side their first points of the match, with the try converted.
Dragons began to have a stronger second half, keeping the Force defence on their toes, both in the forward line and the backline. This is exactly what the Western Force needed out of this trial match, as the Waratahs wil bring face-paced offence in the first round.
Steve Mafi continued his monstrous game, getting the Force off their own try line. The force then turned the ball over, giving Dragons back Michael Little the chance to cross the line.
Robbie Abel was then subbed in place of Heath Tessman at hooker.
The Force were not able to get anything done offensively at the start of the second half, but still commanded defensively, ensuring the Dragons did not break the line as they scrambled across the field, constantly swinging the ball from one side to the other.
A strong attacking surge saw the Dragons cross the line through the forward line attack. This was one of the first times the Dragons forward line successfully punched through the Force defence using a forward receiving the ball off the halfback. This put the Dragons within seven points of the home side, who were beginning to run out of legs.
Kyle Godwin broke up a play by Afa Fa’atau, which could have possibly lead to a try.
After the second break of the half, the Force were still unable to get their game going, but later scored a try when backing the Dragons up against their own line. The forward made space for the backs, who then gave the ball to Robbie Abel to cross the line.
The game continued to be a strong back and forth contest, with no team giving an inch of room. The Dragons only reached the Force’s 22 a small handful of times, with the Force consistently backing the Dragons up in their own end, but being unable to convert.
Zac Holmes managed to break the line, but his grubber kick attempt past two Dragons defenders was unsuccessful. He then crossed the field, where the Force backs swung the ball in the other direction. He then crossed the line, busting through the Dragons defence. This ended the game, making the final score 28-19.
Western Force Coach Michael Foley said he was happy with the games his forwards played.
“I think we played a good game up front, a lot of the systems we’ve been working on were evident,” he said.
“There was a real break in momentum in the middle of the game. The opposition got a bit of momentum; they did well in the breakdown.
Western Force fly half replacement Zac Holmes took over from Sias Ebersohn was a standout performer off the bench. He employed different game to Ebersohn and was equally effective in getting to the other end of the field.
He said he was good for the whole squad to get a run across the two matches played on the day.
“I played in the game before against the Spirit, so it was nice for the whole squad to get a run,” he said.
“We started well against the Dragons, and had a bit of a lul in the middle of the game, but we finished off strongly, so it’s the middle of the game we are struggling with at the moment, but some good signs going into the Waratahs.
“We need to re-address what is working well from us in the beginning. We are starting well and then allowing teams to come back at us, we’ve probably been a bit relaxed, and that’s letting teams get a bit of momentum back.”