The Force fell just short of the Chiefs on Saturday night.
What did we learn from the round nine matchup?
1. Sea of Blue answers the call
There were just 8474 at nib Stadium in the Force’s last home game, with SANZAAR’s Super Rugby announcement looming, but the Perth side’s call to action paid off this time around. The official number was 14,089 at nib Stadium on Saturday night, their highest crowd of the year and up there with the highest Australian crowd of the season too. The atmosphere difference was clear to see and skipper Matt Hodgson paid tribute to the crowd after the match, after a big turnout.
2. Turnover city
Force coach Dave Wessels described it as a ‘war of attrition’ just after half-time and tonight’s clash was certainly that. Whether it was the sides’ defensive pressure, intercepts or poor decision-making, it seemed at times that neither side wanted the ball. The match finished with a total of 37 combined turnovers conceded, with the normally skilful Chiefs making uncharacteristic errors with the ball in hand as much as the Force coughed up opportunities.
3. Cruden sinks the boot in
That the Force only conceded one try on Saturday night is a huge tick for their defence against a Chiefs team that has scored 27 this season. The Chiefs’ score of 16 was their lowest of the year, in a gritty affair. It was their potency off the boot though that proved the Force’s downfall, with three second-half Aaron Cruden penalties the ultimate defence. Speaking of kicking, it was a poor in-field kick that gave Liam Messam that sole try.
4. Haylett-Petty’s hamstring evokes Horwill
Force and Wallabies fans would be crossing their fingers for Dane Haylett-Petty tonight, after the fullback limped off the field with a hamstring issue against the Chiefs. The Force are already battling a mountainous injury toll and Haylett-Petty would be the last player they could afford to lose. The Wallabies winger fell awkwardly in a tackle, in a move not entirely dissimilar to James Horwill’s fall against the Brumbies that cost him his 2012 season. Haylett-Petty didn’t look anywhere near as sore when he came off the field, walking relatively unaided, but hopefully it’s not as bad as it seems.
5. TMO does its job
Video reviews have their critics but on Saturday night, the TMO did its job perfectly. The video review overturned Chiefs tries after accurate, and quick, reviews. The first was a lost ball over the line from Siegfried Fisi’ihoi just on half-time, another a runaway Stephen Donald five-pointer that turned out to have a knock-on in the previous phase. When the TMO functions like this, it reminds everyone why it was introduced in the first place. If only that happened every week.