Force fight until the very end in one point loss to the Chiefs
An inspired late charge came up agonisingly short for the Western Force in a highly entertaining one point loss to the Chiefs. It was a battle until the very end in the Force’s opening Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash at HBF Park, in front of 13,028 fans, our biggest crowd of the year.
The Force were edged out 19-20 after a brave final spell that saw them fight back from 7-20 down with just over ten minutes to play. Unfortunately, flyhalf Domingo Miotti was unable to convert his own try in the final seconds of the match that would have given the Force a significant triumph as Australian and Kiwi sides renewed rivalries after a four-year hiatus.
Force Captain Kyle Godwin saw plenty of positives from the result.
“I’m proud of the boys to put on that performance and take the Chiefs to the last minute. We can take a lot out of that game tonight, and make sure we can succeed in this competition”, Godwin said.
The Chiefs opened the scoring in the sixth minute with flyhalf Damian McKenzie putting centre Alex Nankivell through a gap for the try. McKenzie added the conversion to put the Chiefs 0-7 ahead.
The Force missed a chance to reduce the deficit in the 14th minute with flyhalf Jake McIntyre pushing a penalty attempt wide of the posts.
The Chiefs kept up the pressure on the Force using their dominant scrum to secure a string of penalties and keep the Force pinned inside their own 22. However, the Force continued to play positively and looked to create opportunities whenever they had possession.
This approach saw the Chiefs reduced to 14 men in the 33rd minute when centre Anton Lienert-Brown was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements during a sustained attack on the Chiefs line. Minutes later the Force were awarded a penalty try after Chiefs number eight Luke Jacobson collapsed a maul, as the Force drove towards the line from a five-metre lineout. Jacobson was also shown a yellow card, leaving the visitors two players short. McIntyre converted to level the scores at 7-7.
A minute from half time, the Chiefs got back into Force territory, winning a penalty which McKenzie converted to give them a 7-10 lead at the break.
With 13 men on the field, the Chiefs were looking to slow the game down during the opening ten minutes of the second half. By contrast, the Force looked to recycle quickly when in possession to make the most of their numerical advantage.
After a frantic passage of play that saw possession change hands several times in quick succession, Force winger Jordan Olowofela was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock down. From the restart, the Chiefs scored their second try of the match through hooker Nathan Harris.
Minutes later, the Chiefs scored a third try through winger Jonah Lowe after a strong break by flanker Pita Gus Sowakula. McKenzie again pushed his conversion wide leaving the Chiefs with a 13 point lead with 25 minutes to play.
With 15 minutes remaining, Chiefs number eight Luke Jacobson was shown a red card for a second dismissible offence leaving his team to finish the match a man short. Minutes later, Force winger Richard Kahui pounced on a clever pass from replacement scrumhalf Ian Prior to score his team’s second try. Replacement flyhalf Domingo Miotti converted, reducing the deficit to 14-20 to set up an enthralling finish in front of a rocking HBF Park.
With just a minute remaining, the Force ran in a third try through Miotti after some impressive handling in the build-up. This left Miotti with a conversion to win the game, but he pulled it narrowly wide to give the Chiefs a one point victory.
Despite not being able to secure the win, head coach Tim Sampson is pleased with the performance.
“We’ve got to build on the progress we made over the last six weeks and we certainly did that tonight,” Sampson explained.
Godwin added that the squad is excited for the challenges ahead.
“Highlanders next week; they are going to be a quality opposition. I’m looking forward to that game next Friday.”
Western Force – Tries: penalty try, Richard Kahui, Domingo Miotti. Conversions: Jake McIntyre, Miotti.
Chiefs – Tries: Alex Nankivell, Nathan Harris, Johan Lowe. Conversions: Damian McKenzie. Penalties: McKenzie.
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