By Elliot Raiter
The Road Safety Western Force have clinched a hard-fought 31-22 victory over the Melbourne Rebels at the ‘Force Field’ on Friday night.
In a fixture full of emotion and aggression both sides didn’t give an inch throughout, however three second half tries to the men in blue proved the difference in a fiery affair.
Stand-in Road Safety Western Force skipper Adam Coleman was extremely pleased with his side’s performance given the circumstances, with their second half pressure culminating in a determined victory.
“I am really proud of the boys and how they ripped in for each other. We spoke during the week about process rather than outcome driven and I think the boys really showed that today.”
“We built pressure I think. The first half we really lacked some pressure, the second half I felt we were more up for the contest and it showed in the score line.”
The match began with a sign of unity from the Australian-based sides, with the Rebels and Force running out together, showing strength during a time of extreme adversity.
The Rebels struck first blood after a penalty at the breakdown saw Reece Hodge convert from distance after three minutes, to give the away side an early 3-0 lead.
The Rebels continued to dominate the early exchanges, with Chance Peni showing ill-discipline to cost the Force, going to the sin bin for a shoulder charge on Steve Cummins.
Despite being a man down, momentum began to swing in the Force’s favour with a beautiful set piece move from a lineout resulting in Bill Meakes first try for the Western Australian team.
The remainder of the half was played in the Rebels’ 22, with poor ball handling costing the men in blue, with a number of chances blown metres from the try line.
The Rebels then struck back against the run of play with Marika Koroibete streaming away down the right-hand side to cross over, after quick hands from Hugh Sinclair and Amanaki Mafi, with Hodge adding the extras.
Stand in skipper Adam Coleman then stamped his authority on the contest, after several brutal phases, the lock snatched a pick and go to lunge over the line, to put his side back in front 14-10.
With the men in blue seemingly in control, the visitors again scored from a counter attacking play, as Koroibete crossed over for his second try of the night, after a set play down the left hand side resulting from a scrum.
The Rebels took an unlikely 15-14 lead going into the break despite possession dominance from the home team.
An early second half penalty for offside saw the men in blue regain the lead, with Peter Grant knocking over the kick, as the Force took a 17-15 advantage after 42 minutes.
After numerous clinical phases, Richard Hardwick marked his return from national duty with a try, taking a pick and go from the back of a maul to tumble over, extending the Force lead to nine points.
The flood gates then began to open for the men in blue, with a long cut out pass from Wallaby Dane Haylett-Petty finding Chance Peni in the right-hand corner, before the winger evaded three Rebel defenders to crash over the line.
The Melbourne Rebels continued to fight and were rewarded with a terrific build up resulting in a Colby Fainga’a try after a fantastic pass from Jackson Garden-Bachop, reducing the margin to just nine points again.
Despite a desperate last 10 minutes from the Melbourne Rebels, the Road Safety Western Force were stoic in defence to record a gutsy nine-point victory in front of 7,954 adoring sea of blue fans.
The Road Safety Western Force will return to the Force Field next Saturday, 15 July, to take on the Waratahs in club’s final match of the 2017 Super Rugby season in what will be club legend Matt Hodgson’s final game for the club.