The Force produced a determined second-half performance to defeat the Rebels 31-22 in Perth on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
With Australia set to lose a Super Rugby team, it is a toss-up between the Force and Rebels as to who gets axed, after the Australian Rugby Union has repeatedly confirmed the Brumbies, Reds and Waratahs are safe.
So besides perhaps convincing the ARU to cull the team on the losing end of this match-up, there was absolutely no point to this fixture at this stage of the season. It was a rudderless snorefest which proved exactly why the competition needs to be reduced to fewer teams.
The contest consisted of endless aimless kicking, multiple handling errors and numerous scrum resets, with no real structure to either of the teams' attack.
In the end, an improved second-half performance propelled the Force to a fifth win of the season. For the Rebels, it was another limp display that led to a 12th defeat.
Reece Hodge had given the visiting Rebels the lead with a penalty. A try either way, while the Force were reduced to 14 men, meant the Rebels held a 10-7 advantage on the half-hour mark. But the game livened towards the close of the half. Lock Adam Coleman put the hosts in front with a try from close quarters and Peter Grant added the conversion.
The Rebels didn't take it lying down, and responded in some style when wing Marika Koroibete finished off a try that started inside their 22. To their credit, it was one of the better tries the Rebels have scored this year. The conversion brushed the outside of the upright, but the Rebels still led 15-14 at the break.
The Force made a blistering start to the second half, chalking up 17 unanswered points against a feeble Rebels defence. Grant regained the lead for his team with a penalty, followed by two converted tries from flank Richard Hardwick and wing Chance Peni. Making up for his yellow card earlier, Peni received the ball outside and wrong-footed two would-be tacklers with a left step before handing off a third defender to score.
With his team on the ropes, Colby Fainga'a provided the much-needed breakthrough for the Rebels with a 59th-minute try. Hodge followed up with a successful conversion to make it a nine-point game.
Still chasing the game, the Rebels played with more urgency in the last quarter and injected more pace into their attack, but the Force defended valiantly in the closing stages to see off the Rebels and secure the win.
Force – Tries: Bill Meakes, Adam Coleman, Richard Hardwick, Chance Peni. Conversions: Peter Grant (4). Penalty: Grant.
Rebels – Try: Marika Koroibete (2), Colby Fainga'a. Conversion: Reece Hodge (2). Penalty: Hodge.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Chance Peni, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman (c), 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jono Lance, 23 James Verity-Amm.
Rebels – 15 Jonah Placid, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Murray Douglas, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Fereti Sa’aga, 19 Esei Haangana, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Jack Maddocks.