The Force took a 31-22 win over the Rebels in their team's only 2017 meeting.
What are we talking about after an emotional derby.
1. Show of solidarity
Though they were somewhat relieved to be talking about the rugby, there was no escaping the underpinning narrative that has followed the Force and Rebels this season when it comes to their 2018 fates. With South Africa’s decision over relatively cleanly on Friday, things look even more grim. Rather than trying to avoid the issue, the Force and Rebels made a public gesture of solidarity with each other walking on the field side by side. Post-match, injured Force veteran Matt Hodgson addressed a joint player’s huddle, emphasising their unity and the message that Australian rugby is ‘Stronger as Five’. Though the ARU’s decision over which team should go will ultimately be made away from the field, the night’s messages were hard to ignore.
2. Force Wallabies stand up
The Force provided four Wallabies to the June Series squad and it was three of those players in particular who took the game by the scruff of the neck on Friday night. Tatafu Polota-Nau enhanced his reputation as Australia’s in-form hooker with an influential performance, while lock and first-time captain Adam Coleman snatched a try and was immense in defence. June debutant Richard Hardwick looked all the better for his experience in national camp as well.
3. Give it to Koroibete
Marika Koroibete has been starved of touches this season but when he has his hands on the ball he can do almost anything. Twice on Friday night he showed a glimpse of the skill and pace that made him such an attractive acquisition this time last year. He’s yet to make a Test debut but given the X-factor he possesses, a Wallabies berth can’t be far away, if he puts himself in the thick of the action in Super Rugby.
4. Attack evolution in play
The Western Force has spoken about it for years but their attack is finally starting to become a weapon. They were effective in defence on Friday night, but it was their attack, both freestyle and set plays, that showed the progress this team has made. Bill Meakes, Curtis Rona and Chance Peni were all influential in that sense and it’s a credit to first-year head coach Dave Wessels that they’re making the strides they have.
5. The strangest week yet to come
This was a huge week for both the Force and the Rebels but it will have nothing on the week to come, as they prepare for their final 2017 matches, without really knowing whether it’ll be the end for their team. The Rebels will farewell departing centre Mitch Inman in his 100th Super Rugby game, while the Force will have Matt Hodgson in their playing ranks for the last time.