NRC: Force survive late scare to book home semi-final

NRC
by Emma Greenwood

The Western Force have survived a whirlwind finish from Brisbane City to remain on top of the NRC ladder and seal a home semi-final after notching a 33-31 win to end the Queenslanders' playoff hopes.

The victory - which came after City missed two conversion attempts in the dying minutes - allowed the West Australians to seal a home final for the first time in their history in the national championship.

But it came at a high cost, with inspirational half and captain Ian Prior breaking his wrist and unlikely to play any further part in their season.

Prior has been a key part of the Force's campaign after returning to action in round three following a four-month layoff due to a pectoral injury suffered during the Global Rapid Rugby season.

Force captain Ian Prior is helped from the ground after breaking his wrist. Photo: Getty Images

The no.9 was left writhing on the ground in pain after contact at a ruck, with great concern shown before he was helped from the field inside the opening 10 minutes.

The Force had dominated the early exchanges and while they had not scored when Prior left the ground, the changeover to Issak Fines was seamless and they soon made the most of a penalty deep in City's territory, with hooker Heath Tessmann scoring from a rolling maul.

The blows continued to come for the Force though, with no.8 Brynard Stander forced from the field with a knock to the knee before Brisbane scored against the run of play after backrower Seru Uru intercepted the ball and raced 60m to score.

The effort seemed to spur Brisbane, who took the game to the competition leaders in the next 10 minutes, before an great individual effort from flyhalf Isaac Lucas put the visitors in the lead.

Western Force half Isaak Fines looks to pass. Photo: Getty Images

With seemingly nothing on, Lucas skipped left, spotted a gap in the defence and raced through the Force clutches, with Bryce Hegarty's conversion giving them a 14-7 lead.

They were on the back foot again soon though and when they conceded a penalty inside their own 22, Fines played on quickly for the Force, putting Jonah Placid over in the corner, with Andew Deegan's conversion leveling the scores again.

Placid's try was an anomaly though, the game played mostly in the forwards as the two packs battled for supremacy.

The Force had the upper hand at the end of the first term, winning three penalties in a row and hammering the Brisbane line before they had success with their rolling maul two minutes into time-on, with Jeremy Thrush claiming the try.

The Force forwards continued their dominance after the break, with prop Tom Sheminant scoring a rare try.

 

He will dine out on the effort given it came in broken play, the tighthead getting the ball from front-row partner Tessmann who was also lurking out wide and made a strong run.

Consistent penalties led to City having a man sent to the bin and the Force scored again through their rolling maul, with Feleti Kaitu'u stamping the ball over the line to give his side a 19-point buffer.

With their season on the line, City showed some desperation and made a break that looked set to bear fruit before Moses Sorovi spilt the ball.

But a pair of tries in the dying stages - to Adam Korczyk and Jordan Luke - put them within a converted try with just under five minutes remaining.

City almost engineered an amazing escape too, with Luke racing over for his second try in four minutes after Cameron Orr but Hegarty was unable to slot the conversion from out wide, despite the kick being a carbon copy of his effort just minutes earlier.

Brisbane City's Isaac Lucas kicks down field. Photo: Getty Images

RESULT

Western Force 33

Tries: Tessmann, Placid, Thrush, Sheminant, Kaitu'u

Cons: Deegan 4

Brisbane City 31

Tries: Uru, Lucas, Korczyk, Luke 2

Cons: Hegarty 3