Force comeback falls short in Auckland
A second half surge in the final round of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman regular season was not enough for the Western Force, as they fell to a 31-21 loss to the in-form Blues side, who have qualified for a home Grand Final.
The Blues made the most of their chances in the first half to open up a 28-point lead before the Force fought back to outscore the home side 21-3 in the second half.
Captain Ian Prior praised the mentality of the squad following their second half performance.
“We got back to basics in the second half. I’m really proud of our fightback,” Prior explained.
The Force started the contest in fine fashion, with accurate set-pieces and strong ball retention earning early dominance.
Despite the Force enjoying early possession, the hosts opened the scoring through Hoskins Sotutu at the ten-minute mark with a breakaway run. Otere Black converted to give the Blues a seven-point lead.
The Blues crossed over for their second try of the match with 28 minutes played, with Mark Telea racing over in the far-left corner. Black converted to make the scores 14-0 in favour of the Auckland-based side.
Dalton Papalii of the Blues crossed over for their third of the night, with Black converting to make it 21-0 with 35 minutes on the clock.
Sotutu scored his second try of proceedings on the stroke of half time, as he reached over to touch down. Black converted to make it 28-0, which remained the score at the break.
The Force responded swiftly in the second half, with Feleti Kaitu’u finishing off a powerful rolling maul to cross the line. Prior converted to bring the score to 28-7 to the Blues with 48 minutes played.
Tevita Kuridrani then powered over for his first try for the club with a barnstorming run after being put through with a superb pass from flyhalf Jake McIntyre. Prior converted to reduce the deficit to 14 points after 57 minutes.
Telea seemed to have scored his second try of the match, but after going to TMO, foul play was ruled to have occurred in the build up with Ray Niuia receiving a yellow card.
The visitors continued their fightback, with Rob Kearney racing over for his first for the club, which was converted by Domingo Miotti to make it 31-21 to the Blues with just two minutes remaining.
WA talent Michael McDonald entered the contest in the final stages to mark his first Super Rugby appearance for his hometown club, while another Force pathway player Ollie Callan excelled at number eight.
With no further points scored, it finished 31-21 to the Blues following a fantastic second half performance from the Force to finish off the club’s inaugural Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign.
Prior insisted the future is bright for the Force.
“There’s huge potential for this team. The group has been really special this year,” he said.
The Force’s Super Rugby season may have come to a close, but they will be back in action at HBF Park on July 16 when they take on New Zealand provincial heavyweights the Bay of Plenty. Secure your tickets today by clicking HERE.
Western Force – Tries: Feleti Kaitu’u, Tevita Kuridrani, Rob Kearney. Conversions: Ian Prior (2), Domingo Miotti.
Blues – Tries: Hoskins Sotutu (2), Mark Telea, Dalton Papalii. Penalties: Otere Black. Conversions: Otere Black (4).
This match report was brought to you by PS Structures.
PS Structures supports rugby in WA from the grassroots community game through to the professional Western Force team.
PS Structures and the Western Force, Striving for Excellence.
Visit PS Structures here.