NRC: Force underline favouritism with win over stacked Vikings line-up

NRC
by Emma Greenwood

The Western Force have confirmed their position as NRC favourites, maintaining their undefeated record after beating a stacked Canberra Vikings outfit 45-28.

In an anticipated clash between two of the competition favourites, it was the Force who showed they are the team to beat this season, notching a comfortable win.

The return of fullback Tom Banks from Wallabies duty and promotion of Joe Powell to the starting line-up gave the Vikings a stacked team full of representative players.

Byron Ralston on his way to the tryline. Photo: Getty Images

But they were no match for the Force, who not only played the smarter game but are showing the benefits of their cohesion through a season of Global Rapid Rugby.

The Force had the upper hand throughout a see-sawing game and underlined their dominance in the final stages, running in seven tries to four.

The Vikings were expected to dominate the set pieces given the make-up of their pack, which included three capped Test players.

But it was the Force who proved stronger, winning tries against the feed, gaining scrum penalties and generally having the upper hand at the set piece, while their flying finishers also did their job.

Vikings centre Irae Simone on the fly. Photo: Getty Images

The Force opened the score against the run of play when Byron Ralston picked off a Vikings pass and ran away for an intercept try.

The Vikings were expected to dominate the set piece given their pack included three capped Test players but it was the Force who had the best of the early exchanges, with a scrum penalty setting up a drive deep into Canberra territory.

Jeremy Thrush scored just minutes later after they controlled possession at the ruck, the lock diving over for a simple try after the Vikings were caught short in defence after several phases.

The Vikings needed only one chance to hit back though, busting through the middle when Chris Tuatata-Morrison missed a tackle and finding winger Andy Muirhead, who ran around to score next to the posts.

FULL REPLAY

 

The Force lost flanker Chris Alcock to a knee injury midway through the first half but it was little impediment, with the home side the next to score, after fullback Jake Strachan found flyer Jonah Placid with a neat kick.

Placid has already scored one of the tries of the tournament with a last-minute match-winner off a kick from flyhalf Andrew Deegan and his pace told again, his effort giving the Force a 19-7 lead.

Brumbies centre Irae Simone showed the form that makes him one of the most dangerous attacking midfield runners in Super Rugby, making two outstanding linebeaks, but was unable to link up with supporting runners.

The Force's defence was outstanding for periods but they paid when they piggybacked the Vikings up field, Lachlan Lonergan scoring from a rolling maul after a lineout to help the visitors claw to within five points, while George Morseu's effort after the halftime buzzer was denied after his foot crossed the sideline before he could plant the ball.

Force half Andrew Deegan in action. Photo: Getty Images

 

A Vikings error from the second-half restart seemed set to cost them dearly when Leon Feke crossed early in the term but his try was disallowed, with the pass deemed forward.

And the Force had another refused two minutes later after an obstruction was ruled.

But it was third time lucky for the home side, with no.8 Brynard Stander crossing to extend their lead to 24-14.

The Vikings brought the margin back to just three points soon after though when Len Ikitau ran a beautiful line to spear over.

Their effort erased almost immediately though when the Vikings missed the catch from the re-start, with Placid racing through to clean up the spoils and cross in the corner, with Prior slotting the sideline conversion.

 

When Brumbies flanker Pete Samu was sin binned just minutes later, the visitors seemed in as though they would be unable to hang on.

But the Force were unable to make the most of their advantage, with a 14-man Vikings outfit scoring through lock Blake Enever.

As they had done all day though, the Force hit back, Feke eventually scoring seconds before Samu rejoined the play, with Prior's sideline conversion reinstating their 10-point buffer.

Again it was the Vikings' impatience that proved costly, with Samu flinging a wild pass that handed possession back to the Force and substitute Feleti Kaitu'u eventually scoring to ensure the home win.

RESULT

Western Force 45

Tries: Ralston, Thrush, Placid 2, Stander, Feke, Kaitu'u

Cons: Prior 5

Canberra Vikings 28

Tries: Muirhead, Lonergan, Ikitau, Enever

Cons: Lolesio 4

Yellow card: Pete Samu 58'