Force cop reality check ahead of NZ tour

Fri, 21/05/2021, 09:52 pm
Justin Chadwick - AAP
by Justin Chadwick - AAP
Rob Kearney fails to escape the Highlanders clutches. Photo: Getty Images

Western Force coach Tim Sampson says a 25-15 loss to the Highlanders was the reality check his team needed ahead of their three-match swing in New Zealand.

The Force were blown off the park early on Friday night, with the Highlanders racing out to a 20-3 lead inside 36 minutes to set up the win in Perth.

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The result came just a week after the Force lost 20-19 to the Chiefs in a match they would have won if Domingo Miotti had nailed an after-the-siren conversion attempt.

Sampson rued his team's ill discipline against the Highlanders, with the penalty count reading 9-3 at half-time.

The Force's task is about to become a whole lot tougher given their remaining three matches in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition are in New Zealand.

Double cut-out pass by Ian Prior for Angus Wagner's try.

The Perth-based franchise take on the Hurricanes in Napier next Friday, before facing off against the Crusaders and Blues. 

Sampson said his team had learned vital lessons from the loss to the Highlanders, who dominated the breakdown at crucial moments.

"We just couldn't get any control of the game. That's the reality check we needed for NZ teams," Sampson said.

"They were ruthless and very physical at the breakdown, and very quick. They caught us on the hop a fair bit there.

"It (the trip to NZ) is something we look forward to. The challenge of playing over there excites us. 

'Good sides rebound quickly, and I'm sure these guys will rebound."

The Force will be sweating on the availability of flyhalf Jake McIntyre and lock Jeremy Thrush.

Absolute class from Aaron Smith for the Highlanders try.

McIntyre was knocked out in a first-half clash of heads, while Thrush was a late withdrawal after pulling up "lame" and failing a fitness test on the morning of the match.

Force stand-in captain Kyle Godwin is confident the team will be able to fix up its discipline issues.

"It's an individual thing, but we've got to address it as a team," Godwin said. 

"If we can get our core fundamental skills and breakdown right, that will take care of itself. They won the breakdown tonight, and a lot of our areas and a lot of that ill discipline will evaporate if we do take care of that."

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