The Western Force played their 2nd successive home game in the penultimate game of the Super Rugby season and this one was a must win. The nib Stadium staged the Force vs Rebels; both teams places in Super Rugby were being questioned earlier in the season, but they are now somewhat secure. The Rebels sit at the bottom of the conference while the Force are flying reasonably high despite only the Brumbies making it into the playoffs for Australia. In Perth, the stage was set for an all Australian derby…
The Force were immediately on the back foot when Chance Peni, who was returning from injury, charged into Reece Hodge after the Rebel had made a pass. It was a clear shoulder check and the referee handed Peni a yellow card. A poor return from the rugby league converted winger.
Despite the man disadvantage, it was the Force who got the next try and it was an marvellous one as well! Richard Hardwick claimed the ball after a lineout and took it flat to the line. He offloaded well to Michael Ruru and the scrum half began to speed away into space. Jackson Garden-Bachop was back for the Rebels but nothing could stop the line Billy Meakes was preparing to run! The former Gloucester man hit the ball with pace and power allowing himself to rush away and score! What a set piece and finish! Grant converted as well to push the Force ahead.
The lead was short lived due to the break of Amanaki Mafi. He sent Alex Newsome the wrong way and when Tatafu Polota-Nau misses his tackle, alarm bells started to ring. The ex-Bath forward made a few more yards and then drew in Dane Haylett Petty, found Hugh Sinclair who instantly handed the ball to Marika Koroibete and the winger had an easy sprint away!
The Force hit back courtesy of a very strong Adam Coleman pick and go. The second row scooped the ball up from the base of a ruck and clattered through a pile of bodies to score. The TMO checked the grounding but there were no issues so the try stood.
The game kept swinging from the Force’s lead to the Rebels lead and that story continued when Marika Koroibete caught the ball on the halfway line and began to scamper away. He slipped out of Michael Ruru’s tackle and then drew in the attention of Dane Haylett-Petty, opening up space for Mitch Inman. The outside centre pinned his ears back and started to head for the corner. He got close until the tackle of Alex Newsome cut his run short but Koroibete had continued his pursuit of the ball and was in support the finish of the try! The Fijian had finished what he had started.
However, once more the Force hit back. They had worked themselves to within one metre of the line and Richard Hardwick took matters into his own hands and tried to burrow over the line. The Melbourne Rebels were not alert and Hardwick stretched out and dotted the ball down! The referee witnessed the grounding and blew his whistle to award the try.
Chance Peni’s return was poor and after his yellow card, he was keen on redemtion. Dane Haylett Petty lobbed a pass outwide to Peni and the winger caught it as he cut back in and evaded the tackle of Koroibete and Murray Douglas to dive in. What a finish as he stepped past two players in one!
Melbourne were still eager to salvage something and did exactly that. Jackson Garden-Bachop delayed his pass well to Colby Faingaa and the flanker hit a gap close to the line. Nobody could stop the flying forwards as he clattered through the bodies and to score. It was a good powerful finish.
But that would be the only hope they could get as the hooter blew and the game was won for the Force. It had been a fiery contest and it even ended with a fight but it meant nothing! The Force had won convincingly and with it had they secured their spot in Super Rugby…?