NRC: Force seal minor premiership with comprehensive win over Sydney

NRC
by Emma Greenwood

The Western Force have sealed the NRC minor premiership and stamped themselves as the team to beat this season after rounding out the fixture season with a 57-33 win over Sydney at Woollahra Oval.

They Force had lost only once leading into the game and while Sydney were out of finals contention, they had nothing to lose and threw everything at the team from the west in their final match of the season.

With Canberra failing to secure a bonus point in their win against NSW Country on Friday night, the Force had the minor premiership in their keeping before kick-off.

But they started as though their future in the competition depended on it, racing to a 26-7 lead at the break and scoring first in the second half to all but secure the win.

Jonah Placid was outstanding for the Force but spent time in the sin bin after knocking the ball down. Photo: Getty Images

Flyhalf Andrew Deegan was outstanding for the Force and earnt a rest after 55 minutes, with the West Australians ensuring they did not suffer another serious injury blow following a broken wrist to captain Ian Prior last week.

Prior's replacement Isaak Fines showed the benefit of his time with Deegan through the Rapid Rugby season though and the Force lost little with the pair running rampant early.

Sydney fought back in the second half, scoring four of their five tries in the second period, including two in the final 10 minutes after Force replacement Aisake Meo was sent to the bin for a high tackle on a falling James Ramm.

Deegan scored the opening try after five minutes following an offload from Jonah Placid, with Sydney punished after failing to find their touch.

 

Sydney looked to have wasted another chance but had a pass intercepted by Placid with their line open but they were next to score when Junior Wallabies Will Harrison and Triston Reilly combined to come up with a five-pointer.

In an early tit-for-tat exchange, Pama Fou was the next to cross, plucking a Deegan pass out of the air after the flyhalf spotted space out wide, and racing over.

It opened the flood gates for the Force, who added another try just minutes later, with prop Harrison Lloyd backing up amazingly well to go over after Placid and Issak Fines counter-attacked down the left flank.

Placid had been on fire in the opening stages of the half but he spent the final minutes in the sin bin after being handed a yellow card for a deliberate knockdown as he attempted an intercept.

But in a massive blow for the home side before halftime, the Force crossed again just before the break, with Deegan selling a massive dummy before shifting the ball wide to Byron Ralston to give the visitors a 26-7 lead at the break.

 

They opened the scoring in the second term too, Fou racing over for his second of the afternoon just before Placid returned to the field.

Deegan took a break after 54 minutes and while the Force lacked some of the direction that had been evident early, they maintained control for the most part.

Starved of opportunities in the first half, Sydney were better early in the second term, with their forwards bolstering their efforts.

The injection of tighthead prop Charlie Abel stiffened up the Sydney scrum which marched the Force pack in back-to-back efforts before being awarded a penalty try in the 53rd minute.

It did little to stop the march of the Force though, with Feleti Kaitu'u scoring to extend their lead to 31 points.

The young Sydney side didn't stop trying though, with Junior Wallabies teammates Harrison and Ben Donaldson combining to put Harrison over the line.

It was one of five tries scored in a frantic final 15 minutes, with the teams going tit-for-tat and Sydney taking advantage of an extra man in the dying stages after Meo's sin binning to have the last word through Joe Cotton, who was pushed over by the outstanding Abel.

RESULT

Western Force 57

Tries: Deegan, Fou 2, Lloyd, Ralston 2, Kaitu'u, Tizzano, Miller

Cons: Deegan 5, Strachan

Yellow card: Placid 33', Mio 72'

Sydney 33

Tries: Reilly, Harrison, McCauley, Cotton, penalty try

Cons: Harrison 3