The Force showed guts in a 34-12 loss to the Hurricanes.
What are we talking about after that clash?
1. Statistical dominance not quite scoreboard dominance
The Force proved they have the ticker, and the ability to match it with one of the most dynamic Kiwi sides going around and early dominance had them in the box seat. A Dane Haylett-Petty try in the 44th minute threatened to turn momentum into points but the Wellington side piled on 17 points in 15 minutes to take the game into their hands.
2. When video killed the rugby fan
Shoulder charges and late tackles should not be a part of rugby but there are times when collisions simply can’t be avoided. Dane Haylett-Petty had nowhere to turn when he ran into TJ Perenara, after the Hurricanes scrumhalf unloaded a kick in the 67th minute. The clash, in the lead-up to a Hurricanes try, was spotted by the TMO and in slow motion looked far later and more avoidable than it ever had in real time. Haylett-Petty was fuming at the call, with even the referee Rohan Hoffman conceding it was a harsh roll of the dice.
3. Perenara pushing for All Blacks starting spot
Aaron Smith has for so long been thought of as an almost automatic choice to All Blacks scrumhalf, but the Highlanders No. 9 should not be feeling so secure anymore. TJ Perenara is having another sensational season, after already earning Test starts last year when Smith was unavailable. The Hurricanes don’t lack spark but Perenara brings it in spades.
4. Hodgson glad for break
The sight of Matt Hodgson limping off in the 25th minute with a calf injury would have been hard for Force fans to watch. The Force captain has battled with injuries at points this season but typically played his heart out when he’s been on the field. He has already confirmed this will be his final playing season, so he’ll be glad to have three weeks to get this latest niggle right before playing the last two games of his career.
5. Force have future
They’re out of the finals race but the Force have shown immense improvement this season under Dave Wessels. Four Wallabies representatives in this June Series are testament to the growing depth they have in their side. They’ve had some blowouts but in a season where their emotions are on tenterhooks most weeks, those are almost forgivable. Wessels speaks often of an 18-month plan and games like Saturday's show their potential.