Force monsters its way past Melbourne
The Western Force has delivered a bonus point victory over rivals Melbourne Rising to notch a third straight win and maintain the club’s perfect start to the 2019 National Rugby Championship season.
An opportunist first-half hat-trick from young winger Byron Ralston was an impressive feat, as was watching the Force pack establish their dominance early. The Rising had recalled a number of Super Rugby stars to their side however the Force were able to negate their influence while executing a game plan that delivered attack and defence with equal verve and ferocity.
While the Force had the game under control for large portions they had to quell a brief Melbourne revival late in the game, the icing on the cake coming from a brilliant team try in the dying seconds. Substitute winger Leon Feke danced through an exhausted Melbourne defence and quick hands from Issak Fines and Andrew Ready led to a rampaging Johan Bardoul slamming it over the line.
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With the Rising’s strong pack unable to assert themselves at the set-piece the home side made the most of the early possession, Ralston diving over in the fourth minute for the first of his trio of opening half tries.
Melbourne refused to go quietly though, WA developed back row Richard Hardwick regathered the ball from a Force error and offloaded to Justin Marsters to open their account. The successful conversion gave the visitors the lead – the only time the Victorians would be in front on the scoreboard all afternoon.
The first half then became one-way traffic for the Force. A malfunctioning Melbourne lineout and hard-hitting Force defence would see the home side head into the break with a 19-7 lead.
The second half couldn’t have started any better for the West Australians when Number 8 Brynard Stander emphatically slammed the ball down over the chalk as the Force capitalised on a turnover deep in Melbourne’s half. Skipper Ian Prior converted to extend the lead to 26-7 with only four minutes gone in the second stanza.
A fast-paced Melbourne attack led to a deliberate knock-on by Andrew Deegan who was promptly yellow carded. Off the penalty Melbourne set up a quick maul to charge over the Force line, Hardwick doing the business for the visitors.
Despite being a man down, the Force pack wrested back the initiative with another dominant rolling maul. This time substitute hooker Andrew Ready was the beneficiary of the Force pack’s stellar afternoon enjoying his injection from the bench a minute earlier. Prior again converted, this time with some help from the post.
The back and forth continued, a final flurry from Melbourne saw hulking tighthead prop Vaauli Fa’amausili cutting the Force lead back to 14 points, however the West Australian’s finished the game with a stunning length of the field effort to add an exclamation mark to a strong all-round performance.
Full time: Western Force 38 – 19 Melbourne Rising
(Half time: Western Force 19 – 7 Melbourne Rising)
Western Force: 38
Tries: Byron Ralston 3, Brynard Stander, Andrew Ready, Johan Bardoul
Cons: Ian Prior 4
Melbourne Rising: 19
Tries: Justin Marsters, Richard Hardwick, Vaauli Fa’amausili
Cons: James So’oialo 2