Planet Rugby

Force keep playoff hopes alive

05th July 2014 11:08

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nick cummins force reds

Try-time: Nick Cummins

A late try from hooker Nathan Charles helped the Force to a breathless 30-20 win over the Reds and keep alive their playoff hopes.

Trailing by four tries in 18 blistering minutes against the Blues last week, the Force quickly notched two of their own through departing hero Nick Cummins and a brilliant team effort finished off by Ben McCalman in a strong first half performance.

Despite an abject opening 40, the Reds kept the hosts on their toes with a try of their own from compact tyro Samu Kerevi, and against the run of play came roaring back to level the scores through an Albert Anae touchdown in an anxious second period.

But the Force, who looked likely to crumble under the pressure at one stage, held firm to seal victory with a breakaway Nathan Charles try that sent the typically raucous nib Stadium into raptures.

Cummins himself got the Force on the front foot with a thumping hit from the kick-off, and, though Jayden Hayward did his best to butcher the chance, Ian Prior set the winger up to bulldoze Rod Davies and crash over in the corner, Hayward landing a super conversion.

The bearded full-back whose late try won the day when the sides met in Brisbane slotted a penalty minutes later; the hosts were playing with a definite spring in their step. Limp defence from James Slipper allowed Chris Tuatara-Morrison to scythe through the Reds midfield and set Cummins powering up the touchline again, the winger's inside ball finding the industrious Sam Wykes, who fed McCalman to rumble over.

Hayward was on target from the tee once again, and the Force dominated the rest of the half, aided in no small part by error after error from their opponents.

Hugh McMenamin was sin-binned for a brainless knee-drop on Ben Lucas that set the tone for a number of niggly off the ball exchanges , but it appeared to make little difference to the flow of the game, with almost all the rugby being played in the Reds half.

As the interval loomed, however, Kerevi launched the visitors' first meaningful attack with a power-laden midfield bust, and from the resultant penalty and lineout, the youngster stepped inside an awful Charles tackle to touch down on his run-on debut.

For all their mistakes, and all the Force's monopoly on possession and territory, the Reds went into the changing room still in touch at 17-10 thanks to Mike Harris' conversion, adding to his earlier penalty.

Kerevi continued to threaten whenever the ball came his way after the break, with a dangerous combination of deceptive pace, power and the priceless ability to free his hands and offload in contact. As Hayward sent two straightforward penalties wide of the poles, the Reds stayed within a score and did their best to soak up the Force pressure again.

The full-back finally found his range anew to give the hosts a crucial two-score cushion, but still, the Reds would not be quelled. A rolling maul gathered pace and purpose as the hour mark approached and Anae was the man in possession as the pack trundled over the line, the try converted brilliantly by Harris to cut the gap to three.

So unaccustomed are they to the top end of the table that these sorts of pressure games have not come the Force's way too often in the past. Their lack of composure proved more and more telling as the Reds grew stronger - without the streetwise savvy that comes with success and knockout rugby, closing the game out became a problem in a nervy, error-strewn final quarter.

Suddenly, somehow, the visitors drew level, the Force going off their feet in the shadow of their own posts, and Harris knocking over the resultant penalty. Emerging triumphant became a test then of the home side's mettle, and indeed their playoff credentials.

They passed with flying colours. First Hayward held his nerve to put the Force in front from tee then Charles, at fault for Kerevi's try, capped a brilliant breakout with a 30-metre dash to the line off Dane Haylett-Petty's inside ball.

The full-back converted again, and the Reds - who have now gone five straight games against their Perth rivals without victory - finished strongly to prevent the Force bagging a bonus-point and leapfrogging the Brumbies atop the Australian Conference.

The scorers:

For Western Force:
Tries: Cummins, McCalman, Chares
Cons: Hayward 3
Pens: Hayward 3
Yellow card: McMenamin (dangerous play)

For Reds:
Tries: Kerevi, Anae
Cons: Harris
Pens: Harris 2

The teams:

Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Hugh McMenamin, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Justin Turner, 22 Dillyn Leyds, 23 Solomoni Rasolea.

Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Dave McDuling, 20 Tim Buchanan, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Johnson, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.

Referee: Angus Gardner (Aus)

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