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Thread: Match Report: Western Force vs Blues

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    Match Report: Western Force vs Blues

    The Blues have clawed their way back to force a draw in a heart-breaking affair. The Force were excellent through much of the match but a fade out in the finals minutes cost them a valuable win.

    The scratching of Tim Fairbrother due to rib injury in the final warm-up was an ominous sign for the Force. The team looked to be under a lot of pressure in the opening minutes of the game as ill-discipline gifted the Blues possession and territory. The Blues failed to convert, however, with Luke McAlister missing two penalties. It was the Force who got the scoreboard rolling first with a 6th minute penalty after a powerful Nathan Sharpe drive. OíConnor added another 3 a few moments later as the Force sizzled in attack. The Blues hit back with two penalties in the 15th and 19th minutes; Ali Williams limping off injured the only positive the Force could take.

    The Force went hot on attack again in around the 25th minute mark, taking the ball from 22 to 22. Although they were repelled by the Blues, jubilation for the Force fans came minutes later after a 5m scrum penalty gifted the Force another 3 points. From the resulting restart, a Force player obstructed the Blues and McAlister returned the scores to a 9-9 deadlock. A sensational kick-chase-regather by James OíConnor almost saw the Force going over for their first; however the TMO adjudged the ball had been held up. From the resulting scrum the Force went wide with Nick Cummins crossing for his first try of the season and giving the Force a 7 point lead going into half time.

    The Blues again looked dangerous at the start of the second half. Only sloppy handling stopped a number of promising opportunities. The Blues had to settle for a lone penalty for their efforts; a penalty that was soon matched by James OíConnor to keep the Force a converted try ahead. Both teams showed flashes of brilliance on attack only to let themselves down with knock-ons. The next score came in the 60th minute with James OíConnor scoring his fifth from five to bring the lead out to 22-12.

    The Blues again looked inches from scoring a try, yet the disciplined Force defence gave them nothing. Ahead by 10 coming into the final 10 minutes, the game couldnít finish fast enough for the Force. A yellow card to Jono Jenkins in the 75th minute seemed to be the straw that broke the camelís back as Keven Mealamu drove over a minute later. The added conversion left the Force with just a 3 point lead and a stadium full of anxious fans. The Force managed to earn themselves a line-out with 50 seconds to go but conceded a breakdown penalty to give Stephen Brett his match-drawing kick at goal.

    The Good
    A draw isnít so bad. Most people had completely written us off coming into the game. I am ashamed to admit I put $10 on the Blues to win by 13 or more. As BeeJay said, if someone had offered us a draw at the start of the game, I wouldíve taken it at the drop of a hat. At least it is something solid to build from and really take it to the Lions next week.

    What impressed me most about the Force was the intensity they brought to the encounter. There has been a lot of talk about how the Force would be battered and deflated after the Sharks encounter but it definitely didnít show on the field. Even without Pocock, the Force reigned supreme at the breakdown and the sterling defence contributed to a lot of dropped balls by the Blues. The cover defence held up time and time again as the Blues looked to go wide at every opportunity. This intensity seems to be a new characteristic of the Force in 2011 and credit must be given to Richard Graham for keeping the team focussed.

    The final positive was the improvements the team has made with their attack. Maybe it was a combination of the injuries and red card that wrote off our attack last weekend. Maybe going through a whole pre-season with Willie Ripia at 10, only for him not to play, has had an impact. Maybe the early bye hasnít helped. Whatever. It was much better tonight. The Blues are a top team and we troubled them tonight. There are still plenty of improvements to be made. Hell, we did only score the one try, but at least we are on the right path.

    The Bad
    You could start with the simple one: We didnít win it. We were the better team for 80 minutes but the scoreboard had us at even-stevens. It is a worrying pattern for the Force, giving up the game in the last few minutes. The mind reels back to the Reds in round 1 or that Hurricanes game in 2009 where they scored twice in the last 5 minutes. Is it inexperience? Lack of confidence? Either way the team will have learnt a lot from tonightís disappointment.

    The other disturbing fact is that once again individual James OíConnor brilliance was responsible for our only try. While our attack was far better than it was last weekend, we are still over-reliant on the youngster and therefore vulnerable.

    The Ugly
    Not too much ugly in that match. Both team placed tough but fair. The scrums were well controlled and didnít dilapidate into a collapse-a-thon. There probably wasnít any aspect of play where the Force didnít put in a pretty decent performance. Maybe from a Blues perspective the ugly would've been how many wasted opportunities they had where knock-ons or poor decision making in taking crossfield kicks ended up with nothing on the scoreboard.

    Man of the match:
    Considering the talent in the Bluesí line-up, boasting ten internationals, they didnít play to their capabilities. They certainly wonít have impressed Graham Henry. Despite not scoring one try amongst their backs, they threatened pretty much every time the ball went wide. As for the forwards, despite probably being out-pointed at the breakdown, they counter-rucked with intent and won that aspect of the battle. I would probably single out Daniel Braid as my best from the Blues.

    There were a lot of standout performers for the Force on the other hand. Our back three worked very well together and were exciting in the way they moved quick line-out ball about the field. Sheehan was a terrier about the field and shouldíve done his Wallaby aspirations no harm. Our back row was fantastic, as usual, even without David Pocock. Sam Wykes and Nathan Sharpe both continued their good form from last week. Our scrum held up pretty well, too, which was a credit to the fatties. I am not normally a fan of bigging up the show ponies, but James OíConnor would definitely be my man of the match. He kicked 5 from 6 penalties and a couple of those were tough ones. His individual brilliance sparked the only try the Force scored all night, and he just didnít seem to put a foot wrong all night.

    Western Force Game Score:
    As I have already said, we were the better team for the 80 minutes. We played in a manner that would make a person pretty proud to be a Force fan. We didnít win the game, but thankfully we didnít lose it either, and we put in a very solid performance against a team that would give a lot of international sides a headache. I think thatís worthy of a pat on the back. B.

    Thoughts from the match:
    - What should we have done in the last minute: Made pick and drives, fed the ball to the backs, or kicked for territory? Is it better to risk one point (for losing by 7 or less) in order to earn the full four?

    - Should we have pressed the attack instead when James OíConnor took the penalty at goal near the sideline on the 50m mark?

    - How has having the 2nd week bye affected us? Can we blame it for us taking a while to find our rhythm and sharpen our attack?

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    Last edited by James; 13-03-11 at 01:29. Reason: Report added.
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    Nathan Pearce is a complete muppet.

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    Legend Contributor fulvio sammut's Avatar
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    I take it the Force lost again?

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    Draw
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    How many times have we seen 80th minute penalties for teams trying to close down games? Heart-breaking.

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    Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast.

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    Immortal Contributor jono's Avatar
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    Getting over it tbh James! Haha
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    Legend Contributor fulvio sammut's Avatar
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    Could be worse. They can still build from this.

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    cowan is a muppet.. (well pretty sure it was him that tripped and fell on the player in front causing the penalty)

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    Senior Player tic's Avatar
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    I really like the Force's defensive toughness at the breakdown - they are unsettling good teams.

    On the other hand they consistently suffer from fadeout and they need some more attacking options.

    From an independent view - a good game of rugby - very entertaining.

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    Senior Player theforceguy's Avatar
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    why the ?*&% did Jono get a Yellow card

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    There is so much to say about that last 15 mins, well, whole game really. The defense was AMAZING, the set piece great. There was still a lack of penetration other than the moment of brilliance from JOC. But the combinations WERE better. Mafi, Cummins and Smith had great games - I liked the way Smith injected himself more into the game. The forwards played very well, in the tight and the loose. Fairbanks was tenacious in defense.

    BUT, maybe the boys were tired (they should have been), however, the shutting up shop with a 10 pt lead played into the Blues hands. Perhaps best to play a bit more of an unexpected style and try running it a bit in between keeping it tight. We looked so good when we were dynamic, looking for quick ball, and breaking the advantage line.

    As James has said, those sealing off penalties are being given more often. Wasn't that the way we got that final penalty that Beale slotted over to give us the win in the high veld of South Africa?

    Anyway, if you said a draw before the game, I would have taken it. But the way the game unfolded, we deserved the win.

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    Referees need to be more consistent in application of law.- last penalty!

    Fox Sports Greg Clarke & Greg Martin seemed thrilled that the Force did not win

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    GUTTED.....AGAIN... but still a believer!! So many positives on Brownie's 50th though - he was great and our defense was HUGE!! Hard to single out individuals, usual suspects were solid ie, Sharpie, Hodgson and O'Conner etc, but for me Wykes, Sheehan (punching way above his weight on so many occasions), Cullet deserve special praise

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