NRC: Impressive Force repel Eagles fightback

NRC
by Iain Payten

The Western Force repelled a second-half fightback from NSW Country to down the Eagles and remain unbeaten after the opening two rounds of the NRC.

Off the back of their first-up win over Brisbane City, the Force re-affirmed their status as one of the competition favourites by powering past a Waratahs-laden Eagles side in Perth.

Led by evergreen flanker Chris Alcock and a big Force pack, the WA men shot out to a 28-7 lead at halftime courtesy an opening 40 minutes that saw Marcel Brache cross twice.

But the Eagles, playing their first game and with only a handful of training sessions under their belt, began to find their rhythm in the second half and brought the score from 35-7 back to 35-28 with ten minutes left on the clock.

The Force found a way to wrestle back the momentum, however, and scored three tries in the final stages to push away once again, and register another impressive win.

Along with the unbeaten Fijian Drua, the Force sit at the top of the ladder and will take some beating.

Showing the benefits of a WRC season together, smart recruiting and the astute coaching of Tim Sampson, the Force have all the ingredients to repeat the efforts of the title winning Spirit in 2016.

They have a controlled blend of power in the forwards, promising playmakers in Andrew Deegan and Jack McGregor and sharp finishing through Rod Davies, Brache and Fijian winger Masivesi Dakuwaqa.

The scoreline blew out but NSW Country Eagles coach Darren Coleman won’t be devastated with his side’s first outing, or at least the majority of the second half anyway.

NSW sides traditionally start slow given their club season finishes late, and without extensive combinations from Super Rugby systems to immediately call upon.

But with continuity from the 2017 team, the Eagles started much better than the Sydney Rays did in their loss to the Canberra Vikings, and will be a decent outfit as the season goes on.

The crowd at UWA were given a free arvo at the footy but they’d have been happy to pay to watch the quality of performance from man-of-the-match Alcock.

The former Brumbies and Waratahs flanker was superb and constantly made a menace at the breakdown, or with the ball in the hand.

Alcock outpointed Will Miller, who was recently called into a Wallabies camp, and given his consistent form, there’d be very few who’d have a problem with the 30-year-old getting a belated invite to the Aussie camp at some point too.

As far as veterans go, Brache wasn’t to be outshone though and the USA speedster was constantly threatening in the wide channels. He scored two tries in the first 17 minutes and  grabbed another in the 25th minute.

Former Force man Alex Newsome, who was good for the Eagles at fullback, snuck one back in the 30th minute but Alcock grabbed a try for himself just before halftime.

After the break Alcock set up Dakuwaqa for his second and it looked like it was going to be a cricket score.

But the Eagles fought back, and with Jake Gordon and Mack Mason taking charge, they scored three tries in the next 30 minutes to Paddy Ryan, Apo Latunipulu and Jed Holloway.

But just as a won game looked like it could end up slipping away from the Force, the Perth men took back control.

Harrison Orr scored a barrelling runaway try and when McGregor - no doubt a contender for the NRC Rising Star nomination this week - went over with a high tackle that turned a penalty try, it was all over.

Davies scored after the siren to round out proceedings.

The Force travel to take on the Vikings next round and the NSW Country Eagles host the Melbourne Rising.

RESULT

Western Force 54

Tries: Brache 2, Dakuwaqa 2, Alcock, Orr, Pen, Davies

Cons: Prior 5, Grant

NSW Country Eagles 28

Tries: Newsome, Ryan, Latunipulu, Holloway

Cons: Mason 4