Force open World Series with a win

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

The Force have heralded their rugby return with a 24-14 win over Fiji Warriors on Friday night.

There was Wolfmother, there was a pre-game address from billionaire backer Andrew Forrest, there was 19,4366 at  nib Stadium, the Force’s second-highest crowd ever at the ground, and all that was left to come was rugby.

And when it came to rugby, it turned out to be a decent reward for those who turned out, if not exactly as frenetic and attacking as some might have hoped for.

Much was made of a newly-introduced power try, but neither side was able to score one of those seven-pointers, and their rolling substitutions change was unable to be ticked off in time for the game.

The Western Force hosted the Fiji Warriors on Friday night. Photo: Getty ImagesFiji had a chance at the points just 20 seconds in, after the Force gave away a penalty in the opening exchanges, but were inaccurate at the posts.

Winger Marcel Brache notched the first try, lighting up the nib Stadium crowd, finishing off a positive attacking chain to open the scoring.

Fiji’s halfback was sin-binned for a shoulder charge in the 14th minute, giving Johan Bardoul a chance to score off a scrum and stretch out their lead.

The Force had to withstand some Fijian pressure, but they managed to work their way back into attack, with a simple lineout play leading to a Brynard Stander try.

Fiji hit back in the 45th minute to narrow the margin and it sparked the visitors, who began to swing the momentum as the game ticked on.

Peter Grant went off early with a head knock. Photo: Getty ImagesA rolling maul try for the Force took the pressure off the home side,as they stretched their advantage back out to 17 points.

The scoring slowed in the final 20 minutes, but it was the Fijians who broke the drought in the 74th minute, putting them less than two converted tries down in the final stages.

With all the energy and momentum, the Fijians mounted another attack in the final two minutes, before a dubious knock-on call robbed them of a chance to score.

The Force won that final possession and they toyed with shooting for a power try, but a mistimed kick from AJ Alatimu put it back in Fiji's hands, and the Islanders went just half an arm's length short of a last-gasp try.

A nasty fall for fullback Peter Grant put a pause to the game at the half-hour mark, with the former Springbok hitting his head hard on the ground in a tackle, while Vice-captain Heath Tessmann had his night ended early by a hamstring injury

Fiji had their own injury worries, with Tevita Ratuva rushed to hospital with a broken ankle midway through the second half.

The Force will play Tonga in their second World Series match, on Sunday May 13, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and on 7TWO in WA.

RESULT

Force 24

Fiji 14

Yellow cards: Vularika (14’)