Super Rugby report card: Western Force

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Force were the Australian Conference dark horse in 2017.

With a new coach calling the shots, some much needed reinforcements in the outside backs and a commitment to play a more expansive style of rugby, there were plenty of positive signs pre-season.

There were growing pains but the end result was a second place finish that brought a sense of optimism to the Sea of Blue, both on and off field.

HIGH POINT

Force fans have been happy with the team's form in 2017. Photo: Getty ImagesThere were three matches this season that rewarded the Force fans for their stoic support.

The 16-6 win against the Jaguares in Argentina was a huge result and Force fans love nothing more than knocking off the Reds, which they did twice this season.

But nothing comes close to the dominant final round win against the Waratahs, which sent Matt Hodgson off in the style he truly deserved.

LOW POINT

Dave Wessels preaches the importance of competing at every contest and playing smart rugby and that lends itself to the low risk, high reward style that the Force warmed into as the season wore on.

That often meant they were involved in low scoring affairs and as a result, there were only a handful of moments which the club would rather forget.

The only low point that sticks out is the 55-6 loss at the hands of the Highlanders, which was a drubbing in the second half.

MVP

Adam Coleman has been enormous this season. Photo: Getty ImagesHe may have only played nine games but in each of those starts, Adam Coleman has been influential.

Coleman is quickly becoming a world class lock, such is the consistency of his dominance in the second row.

He controls the lineout, leads the team defensively with thunderous hits and puts the attack over the gain line with every touch.

Tatafu Polota-Nau was a close second, as he has taken his game to another level since making the move west.

SURPRISE PACKET

Alex Newsome looks to be a future star. Photo: Getty ImagesThere are a few young guns guns on the Force books that have taken great strides in 2017.

Two of those are at halfback, where Ryan Louwrens impressed early on before Michael Ruru filled those shoes with aplomb in Louwrens' injury enforced absence.

Alex Newsome has made a spot on the left wing his own and that's because he has a superb turn of foot, brilliant agility and a propensity to slip tackles.

He looks a star of the future and the more time Wessels gets with this team, the more clean ball Newsome will have to work with.

That is an exciting prospect.

UNDERACHIEVER

Newsome's acceleration has seen Luke Morahan pushed out of the starting XV.

The fact that he is leaving the club for Bristol may have played some part in that but there is no doubting he had a sub par year.

Outside of Morahan, there were consistent performers across the board in this Force outfit.

Positive signs for the years ahead.

WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE IN 2018

The Force are on the way up. Photo: Getty ImagesTo be completely honest, not a great deal.

Dave Wessels is a fantastic coach and there seems to be a terrific culture building at the club.

They will need a new spiritual leader with Matt Hodgson hanging it up, though Adam Coleman looks a prime candidate for that role.

The foundations of a finals bound team are there.

Bigger and better things beckon in 2018.

Final grade: B

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