Force seal tough win over Bay of Plenty
The Western Force bid farewell to Kieran Longbottom and Chris Heiberg in style following a 24-19 win over a resilient Bay of Plenty side at HBF Park.
After a fast start from the Steamers, the Force piled on four second half tries to open up a 17-point lead before Bay of Plenty charged home with a late fightback to narrow the deficit. It proved too little too late as the Force claimed a strong victory in front of the Sea of Blue.
The visitors hit the ground running with Sekuini Tanimo pouncing on the loose ball near the halfway line and racing home to score the opening try of the match. Kaleb Trask converted to give Bay of Plenty a 7-0 lead after seven minutes.
The Force responded powerfully by controlling the play after the early setback. Their intense attacking pressure in the Steamers defensive half was met by a resolute defence, with the hosts unable to even the ledger.
Wave after wave of attacking sets followed for the Force, but the score remained 7-0 to Bay of Plenty at half time.
Force’s persistence paid off early in the second half, with homegrown centre Grason Makara showing great composure and footwork to elude two defenders and power over after 45 minutes. Captain Ian Prior made no mistake and levelled the scores with a well-struck conversion.
It was two tries in five minutes for the Force, with Fergus Lee-Warner crashing over in the 50th minute. Prior split the middle with his conversion to open up a 14-7 lead as the momentum swung in the home sides favour.
The rain proved to inspire the Force, with fullback Jake Strachan latching onto some slick passing on the right-hand side to race over the try line and extend the lead to 12 points with 55 minutes on the clock.
Prop Andrew Ready continued the second half dominance, as he crashed over for the Force’s fourth try of the half with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Bay of Plenty fought back in the closing stages, with All Black Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi scoring a breakaway try, which was followed up by an excellently executed chip and chase try by Tanimo to leave the scores at 24-19 to the Force with just under five minutes remaining.
Tanimo’s second try of the night, which was successfully converted by Lucas Cashmore, set up an engrossing finale. The Force held firm to see out the game in fine fashion to claim a 24-19 win in front of the Sea of Blue.
With 13 Force Fortescue Academy, Future Force Foundation and homegrown players involved, it was a fantastic night for WA rugby.
Western Force – Tries: Grason Makara, Fergus Lee-Warner, Jake Strachan, Andrew Ready. Conversions: Ian Prior (2).
Bay of Plenty – Tries: Sekuini Tanimo (2), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi. Conversions: Kaleb Trask, Lucas Cashmore.
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