Force vs Reds: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Force are off the mark for 2017 after recording a passionate 26-19 win over the Reds at nib Stadium on Thursday night.

Here are five things we learned.

1. Reds can't shake Force bogey tag

A sore and sorry James Slipper addresses his team after their loss. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Force now have a stronger mental grip on the Reds than Glenn McGrath did on the batsman he identified as his proposed bunny before each Test series. That's now just one win from their last eight starts against the Force. The tried-and-tested formula of niggle at the scrum and breakdown, smart territorial play and taking the points when they're on offer again proved to work a charm tonight.

2. Rona, Peni provide attacking punch for Force

Curtis Rona has been among the Force's best in their first two starts. Photo: Getty ImagesCurtis Rona and Chance Peni were immense. The Force have forever lacked speed and agility in their outside backs and this pair add exactly that. Peni scored a scintillating try in the second minute, carried for over 100 metres, beat nine tackles and made three line breaks in what was a best-on-ground performance. Rona adds defensive steel in the centres and never makes a bad choice in attack. Two major players for the Force.

3. Nabuli finds his feet

Eto Nabuli is airborne at the moment. Photo: Getty Images

Gone is the Eto Nabuli that looked a touch lost on the field in 2016. The flying Fijian scored a hat-trick in 49 minutes, including one 70m effort that will stand as a contender for Try of the Year. Nick Stiles was fuming at his team's performance post match but he was glowing with praise when he was asked about Nabuli's rise in form.

4. Players still adjusting to head high laws

Referee Federico Anselmi ruled with an iron fist on Thursday night, particularly when it came to World Rugby's new crackdown on head high tackles. Stiles questioned the validity of the "neck roll" tackle on Sef Fa'agase and the replacement prop was also penalised for a high tackle on a Force player where he made contact at chest level just a few minutes later. It was his third Super Rugby game but Anselmi's did not allow the game to flow, visibly frustrating captains Heath Tessman and James Slipper.

5. Force cross fingers, toes as they await news on Adam Coleman and Jono Lance

The Force will need Jono Lance if they are to push for finals football in 2017. Photo: Getty ImagesA win is a win but it will be a costly one for the Force if Adam Coleman and Jono Lance miss extended periods of football. Coleman, a regular in the Wallabies setup in 2016, was carried off by two Force staff after suffering what looked to be a serious left leg injury. Coach Dave Wessels said post match that he had suffered a calf injury and will be sent for scans tomorrow. Lance suffered a knock to the ribs but Wessels said he had come up okay from the blow. Both are integral parts of this Force side so they may have dodged a pair of bullets if they are not out for prolonged periods.