Planet Rugby

Force hammer hapless Reds

03rd April 2009 13:45

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James o Connor try v Reds

James O'Connor skips away for the first try

The Western Force kept their Super 14 campaign afloat with a comprehensive 39-7 win over the Reds in Perth on Friday, probably their best performance of the season to date.

Against a Reds side looking very out of sorts, the Force were compact, largely error-free and focussed.

But it was no thriller. The Force won by dint of being patient and waiting for their opponents to make mistakes or kick the ball away, then taking their chances. Outside of the one or two attacking moments that yielded points for the home side, the players spent a good deal of time craning their necks to find the ball in the air.

Otherwise it was run into a cluttered midfield where space, as is usually the case with Aussie derbies, was at a premium. It was not a game with which Australians sold the positives of the ELVs their CEO is so passionate about.

Nor was it a game with which the Reds sold us any conviction over their abilities to compete this year. To lose is one thing, to be held scoreless for 75 minutes is quite another. It's not even as though the kicker had an off-day and there was no alternative; the team was simply toothless in attack and lackadaisical in defence.

It took them 65 minutes to get anywhere near the line, even then Blair Connor just couldn't get the ball down. Once he just had a foot in touch, once he let the ball go as he was touching it down. It was the story of the Reds' day - they were already 27-0 adrift by that point.

It took a long time for the game to even get going. From the first 20 minutes there were only three noteworthy pieces of action, all line-breaks by Richard Brown, Van Humphries and Digby Ioane, all of them breaking down because the support was either late arriving or unable to take the pass.

Humphries got the scoreboard ticking by marching around the side of a ruck and getting caught offside, a penalty from which Matt Giteau gave his side the lead. Thereafter, it was one-way traffic.

James O'Connor scored the first, jinking through some awful midfield defence for an excellent try and Giteau converting.

The score precipitated a heavy spell of Reds pressure, punctuated by another turnover - the Force back row worked brilliantly all game at the breakdown - and then the home side struck again when Drew Mitchell stepped his way through in a manneruncannily similar to O'Connor's.

It got no better for the Reds in the second half. Giteau made it 20-0 with a penalty and Reds lock Ezra Taylor was dispatched to the bin for punching shortly afterwards, before Tamati Horua took an inside pass off Richard Brown from the back of a line-out to dot down the third.

Ryan Cross got the fourth as the Force stretched the Reds backs wide on the left, with Giteau finally blotting his copybook by missing the conversion.

Connor, having missed the two earlier opportunities he had been given, finally did make it home to at least spare his side the ignominy of being nilled.

But Haig Sare had the final word, scoring the Force's fifth against a side that, in the words of captain James Horwill after the game: "just didn't turn up."

Man of the match: Richard Brown had a terrific return from injury and made a huge difference to his side.

The scorers:

For the Force:

Tries: O'Connor, Mitchell, Horua, Cross, Sare

Cons: Giteau 3, O'Connor

Pens: Giteau 2

For the Reds:

Try: Connor

Con: McKibbin

Yellow card: Taylor (Reds, 53, punching)

Western Force: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 James O'Connor, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Tom Hockings, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Tai McIsaac, 1 Pek Cowan.

Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 AJ Whalley, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Tamaiti Horua, 20 Chris O'Young, 21 Junior Pelesasa, 22 Haig Sare.

Reds: 15 Mark McLinden, 14 Blair Connor, 13 Digby Ioane, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Van Humphries, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Ben Daley.

Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Jack Kennedy, 18 Scott Higginbotham, 19 Ezra Taylor, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Charlie Fetoai.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

Touch judges: James Leckie (Australia), Julian Pritchard (Australia)

TMO: Geoff Acton (Australia)

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