The Force moved to fourth on the combined Super Rugby log with a 29-19 bonus-point win against the Lions in Perth, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Lions led 9-3 after half an hour, but the game changed when Corné Fourie was harshly yellow-carded for not using his arms in the tackle, on the recommendation of Australian TMO Peter Marshall. The Force scored two tries while the loosehead prop was off.
The Lions then defended superbly in the second half, before conceding two late tries.
The Force had 70% of the possession and territory in the first quarter, yet found themselves trailing when Ebersohn's early penalty was followed by two from Marnitz Boshoff. The Lions then began to play with more confidence, taking the ball through the phases, and Boshoff nailed his third penalty.
The Lions pack has impressed all season, but they conceded a crucial 32nd-minute tighthead that allowed the Force to launch an attack that resulted in a 5m scrum. The hosts then bashed away at the line, and while good defence kept them out, they earned a penalty and seconds later Fourie was controversially sin-binned. The Force opted for another scrum, this time against seven men, and Matt Hodgson went over for a converted try.
The Force attacked again from the restart, with Nick Cummins running strongly and Ebersohn being held up over the line. They then went wide from the 5m scrum and Jayden Hayward scored in the right-hand corner to make it 15-9 at the break.
The hosts looked to have scored a third try against 14 men, when Cummins went over in the left-hand corner early in the second half, but Hayward was penalised for obstructing a Lions defender.
Fourie's return didn't halt the Force's momentum, as they continued to camp inside Lions territory. The visitors didn't help themselves by trying to run the ball out from behind their line, with Deon van Rensburg's desperate clearance kick being charged down. It didn't cost them points, though, as they forced yet another turnover soon after to relieve the pressure.
Boshoff then narrowed the gap to three, after a rare Lions' foray into the Force 22.
More excellent Lions defence denied Zack Holmes a try with seven minutes to go, but the Force scored from the 5m scrum when Chris Tuatara-Morrison went over next to the posts.
Soon after, Elton Jantjies lost possession of the ball while trying to ground it over the line, but the replacement made amends immediately when the ball popped out from the Force scrum and Cummins' clearance kick went horribly wrong.
But the Force hit back with a bonus-point try from Hodgson that put the result beyond doubt and took them to second in the Australian conference.
Force – Tries: Matt Hodgson (2), Jayden Hayward, Chris Tuatara-Morrison. Conversions: Sias Ebersohn, Hayward (2). Penalty: Ebersohn.
Lions – Try: Elton Jantjies. Conversion: Marnitz Boshoff. Penalties: Boshoff (4).
Force – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Justin Turner, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Patrick Dellit.
Lions – 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Jonker, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Rudi Mathee, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Stephan de Wit, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Stefan Watermeyer.
LEATHERMAN SA PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Warren Whiteley made 22 tackles, the most by any Lions player. He also carried the ball five times for a total of 25m, more than any Lions forward.
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