Aaron Cruden kicked three second-half penalties to guide the Chiefs to a 16-7 win over the plucky Force in Perth on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Playing in the last encounter of their three-match tour which started in South Africa, the Chiefs came up against a committed Force outfit and had to call on all their experience to secure four log points.
In a highly entertaining clash that pitted the structured defence of the Force against the unstructured attack of the Chiefs, the sides couldn’t be separated at the midway mark. But Cruden kept the scoreboard ticking over in the second half to seal a hard-fought win.
The Chiefs dominated the opening 10 minutes and were rewarded with a try by Liam Messam, who barged over from close quarters. But in the time that lapsed between then and the half-time whistle, the Force played out of their skins to deny their more accomplished opponents. Frustrated by the thought of being dominated at scrum-time, and at their inability to penetrate the solid Force defence, the Chiefs conceded a number of penalties.
The Force opted to set the line from one such incident. Captain Matt Hodgson cantered over from a devastating driving maul and Ian Prior converted to level the scores.
An opportunity to take the lead just before the break went the way of the Chiefs, but they turned down the points on offer and kicked to the line. After securing possession, they strung together three phases before crossing the tryline, but the ball was dislodged with a last-ditch defensive effort from the Force.
The second half was a bit flat, with neither side able to score again. However, the Chiefs punished every Force error through the reliable kicking boot of Cruden.
Despite a combination of fatigue and frustration setting in among the Chiefs, Cruden nailed three penalties to derail the Force. Replacement centre Stephen Donald thought he had applied the finishing touches for the Chiefs with a try against the run of play, but the effort was disallowed as he was deemed to have knocked the ball on in the build-up.
Despite the result, Force coach Dave Wessels should be proud of the performance from his team, considering all the off-field drama they are currently facing.
Force – Try: Matt Hodgson. Conversion: Ian Prior.
Chiefs – Try: Liam Messam. Conversion: Aaron Cruden. Penalties: Cruden (3).
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Curtis Rona, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Luke Burton, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Isi Maisarani, 5 Ross Haylett-Petty, 4 Lewis Carmichael, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ben Daley.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Pek Cowan, 19 Onehunga Havilli, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Alex Newsome.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Sam McNicol, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam , 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Toni Pulu.
Photo: Sean Middleton/Getty Images