Their fans answered the call but the Western Force fell agonisingly short of a crucial win over the Chiefs, going down 16-7 on Saturday night.
The Force showed plenty of fight against the Kiwis, in front of 14,089 at nib Stadium, but it simply wasn’t enough to overcome the Chiefs.
Speaking to FOX SPORTS at half-time, coach Dave Wessels said they weren’t looking to play pretty footy, and that mentality showed as they tried to shut down their trans-Tasman rivals.
It took just eight minutes for the Chiefs to pounce on a misjudged Dane Haylett-Petty kick that failed to find touch, with Aaron Cruden slipping through the Force defence to set up Liam Messam for the opener.
The home side did themselves no favours in the minutes that followed, with some ill discipline but a dangerous tackle that forced Tatafu Polota-Nau into an on-field somersault snapped the Chiefs’ momentum.
Things took a turn for the worse as the Force battled a Chiefs’ attacking barrage, with Haylett-Petty off the field in the 22nd minute, with a possible hamstring injury, after landing awkwardly in a tackle.
As the half ticked on, the Force began to wrangle the ascendancy, finally finding some chances in the Chiefs’ half and a kick to the corner reaped immediate rewards, with Matt Hodgson scoring off the ensuing rolling maul.
Gritty defence from the Force, led by skipper Matt Hodgson, proved enough to keep the scores level at the break after a possible try to loosehead Siegfried Fisi’ihoi was disallowed after the prop lost the ball over the line.
Aaron Cruden’s boot proved the undoing for the Force in the second half as the Chiefs looked to bank points, with the flyhalf booting three penalties in the second half to secure the lead.
The Force’s defence just hanging in, characterised by Tatafu Polota-Nau shooting out of the line to take down Damian McKenzie, but Cruden slotted points at every given opportunity, to give them a nine-point lead with 13 minutes left.
Desperate to try and claim a last-gasp bonus point, the Force worked tirelessly to create an opportunity but it looked like the Chiefs had sealed the game with a Stephen Donald try, before that was disallowed.
In fact, the Chiefs were never able to cross for a second try, keeping the margin to single figures, as the Force look to a clash with the Lions next weekend.
Pens: Cruden 3