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The Western Force have put a dent in the Brumbies Super Rugby title hopes as they ground out a gutsy 21-15 win at nib Stadium in Perth tonight.
The Force dominated the game from the outset with some rugged work at the breakdown and committed defence knocking the Brumbies off their stride and seeing the Canberra-based team make an uncharacteristic 17 handling errors in the slippery conditions.
After the Chiefs narrow victory over the Blues, to finish in the top two the Brumbies needed to win with a four try bonus point and hope the Bulls lost by more than seven points against the Stormers later in Cape Town.
Rain around the ground shortly before kickoff left conditions damp restricting hopes for an open attacking game.
The Brumbies started poorly with the opening kick off from Matt Toomua going straight into touch on the full. The Force poured on to attack with some sustained possession but a penalty to the Brumbies in the 8th minute turned the ball over on the Brumbies try line.
The Brumbies tried to run the ball from under their own posts but the enterprising play broke down when Qantas Wallabies wing Jesse Mogg’s pass went forward.
A penalty gave the Brumbies some good position and a bullocking run from flanker Colby Faingaa took the Canberra side close to the Force line. A penalty gave the Brumbies a chance to set up a line out metres from the Force line but spirited defence from the home side stopped the resultant rolling maul.
The Force then had the chance to take the lead on 19 minutes with a breakdown penalty close to the Brumbies line but fullback Jayden Hayward missed the penalty attempt from wide out on the left.
The home side were on the board however minutes later when Force captain Matt Hodgson burrowed his way over from a quick tap after Wallabies winger Joe Tomane was penalized for holding on to the ball in the Brumbies 22. This time Hayward was successful with the conversion and the Force led 7-0 after 22 minutes.
The Force were flooding the breakdown and with committed defence were making it hard for the Brumbies to get any continuity.
The Brumbies were on the board after 34 minutes with a penalty from Christian Leali’ifano from right in front making the score 7-3. But it was very clear at this stage that the Force were determined to finish the season with a win.
The Force were almost in again after a powerful burst from Chris Alcock set up a lengthy attack in the Brumbies 22 but the final pass from lock Sam Wykes was judged forward by the TMO and the Brumbies survived.
Bu the Force were in shortly afterwards. From a scrum underneath the Brumbies posts they won a short arm penalty. A quick tap from Alby Mathewson saw the scrumhalf feed the ball to Wallabies flanker Ben McCalman who crashed over for the try. Hayward was successful with the conversion and the Force found themselves up 14-3 at the break.
Things got even better for the Force five minutes after half time when Nick Cummins split the Brumbies defence from a scrum on halfway before slipping a neat flick pass to Junior Rasolea who stepped around Mogg to score under the posts. Hayward converted and suddenly the Force were up 21-3.
But the Brumbies were in just a minute later. The Force made a mistake clearing the ball from the kick off and from the line out close to their line the Brumbies rumbled it forward.
The ball then came to centre Tevita Kuridrani who went over under the posts untouched. Leali’ifano was successful with the conversion and the Brumbies were back to 21-10 after 50 minutes.
George Smith came on to bolster the Brumbies pack but with the Force still so committed at the breakdown and with their defence nearly unbreakable the visitors still had a mountain to climb.
The Force almost completed their four try bonus point eight minutes later but hooker James Hilterbrand just failed to ground the ball after a clever interchange with McCalman from a lineout five metres out from the Brumbies line.
Hayward had the chance to extend the lead from a penalty minutes later but his penalty attempt drifted just wide.
The Brumbies then finally got some momentum and a quick tap from Smith close to the Force line saw flanker Scott Fardy force his way over on 66 minutes. Leali’ifano missed the conversion but the Brumbies were back in striking range trailing 21-15.
There was then a lengthy injury break as Force loose forward Hugh McMeniman was taken from the field. Lock Sam Wykes had also gone off and with just under fifteen minutes remaining it was a question of whether the depleted home side could hold on. Richard Brown took the field for the Force in his 89th and final game for the franchise.
The Brumbies tried to string some play together in the final minutes but their night was summed up in the final minute when Toomua forgot to ground a missed penalty attempt from Hayward before throwing the ball forward to a team mate for the 22 restart.
The Force were awarded a five metre scrum and closed the game out. A match the Brumbies will be keen to forget before they take on the Cheetahs next Sunday in Canberra in the first round of the Finals series.
Full Time Score
Western Force 21 (Matt Hodgson, Junior Rasolea and Ben McCalman tries; Jayden Hayward 3 conversions) defeated Brumbies 15 (Tevita Kuridrani, Scott Fardy tries; Christian Leali’ifano conversion, penalty) at nib Stadium, Perth (Half time: Force 14-3) (Crowd: 9511)
Emirates Western Force: 1. Pek Cowan, 2. James Hilterbrand, 3. Salesi Ma’afu, 4. Sam Wykes, 5. Hugh McMeniman, 6. Matt Hodgson (c), 7.Chris Alcock, 8. Ben McCalman, 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Sias Ebersohn, 11. Nick Cummins, 12. Junior Rasolea, 13.Ben Jacobs, 14. Patrick Dellit, 15. Jayden Hayward. Res: 16. Ben Whittaker, 17. Salesi Manu, 18. Toby Lynn, 19. Richard Brown, 20. Brett Sheehan, 21. Sam Norton-Knight, 22. Sam Christie.
Coach: Michael Foley
Brumbies: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Ben Alexander, 4. Scott Fardy, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Pete Kimlin, 7. Colby Faingaa, 8. Ben Mowen (c), 9. Ian Prior, 10. Matt Toomua, 11. Joe Tomane, 12. Christian Lealiifano, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Jesse Mogg. Res: 16. Siliva Siliva, 17. Ruan Smith, 18. Fotu Auelua, 19. George Smith, 20. Robbie Coleman, 21. Andrew Smith, 22. Mark Swanepoel
Coach: Jake White
Yellow Cards: nil
Red Cards: Nil
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
By the clock
Jayden Hayward Missed PG
Matt Hodgson Try
Jayden Hayward Conversion
Christian Lealiifano Penalty Goal
Ben McCalman Try
Junior Rasolea Try
Tevita Kuridrani Try
Christian Lealiifano Conversion
Scott Fardy Try
Christian Lealiifano Missed Con
RaboDirect Rebels flanker Jordy Reid has extended his contract at the Club and will remain a Rebel until at least the end of the 2017.