The Western Force put an exclamation mark on their Asia Showcase Series performances with an impressive 24-point win over the South China Tigers in Hong Kong. A stellar second half in which the visitors scored four tries to nil ensured they closed out their campaign in Asia with four wins from four starts.
While the final margin looked comfortable, the West Australian’s were made to work for their win with the Tigers heaping on the pressure in a tight first half.
The Force made a perfect start to the game when winger Brad Lacey scored a power try a minute after kick-off but that sparked the home side to life and for the next half an hour it was the Tigers who looked the most dangerous.
Flyhalf Matt Rosslee slotted two nice penalty goals before skipper Liam Slatem registered South China’s first try. A brilliant run down the right wing from fullback Jack Neville burst open the Force defence before an off-load to Slatem who dashed through and dotted down. With the try scoring play starting deep in the Tigers own defensive half the home fans were hoping it would be a power try, however, the referee deemed it had started just outside the 22. Regardless, the five-pointer, plus conversion, saw the Tigers take the lead for the first time and have their tails well and truly up.
South China continued to apply pressure and only some desperate defence from the Western Force kept them at bay. While the Force would have been the ones keen to see half time arrive sooner rather than later, as they have done all series, the WA team dug deep and were rewarded when vice-captain Brynard Stander crashed over under the cross bar to restore their lead.
With just three points separating the sides at the break it was anyone’s game and for the first 10 minutes of the second half it was a tight arm wrestle, albeit, both teams having glimpses at adding to their tally. That scenario was summed up perfectly when Lacy looked to have scored his second try of the game only to have the ball held up by Tigers winger Harry Sayer.
Something seemed to click for the Force after that, and from then on it was almost exclusively one way traffic. AJ Alatimu started the onslaught after being the beneficiary of a strong scrum just five meters out to score a try and then slot the conversion. That took the margin out the 10, the biggest of the game to date.
Tigers replacement playmaker Glyn Hughes did manage a penalty goal in response, but that would be the last time the home side would trouble the scorers.
A second try to Stander, was then followed up by Jack McGregor and Feleti Kaitu’u as the Force got their running game going.
Accustomed to being on the bottom of packs, Stander found himself out on the left wing and the recipient of a lovely cut out pass which he gobbled up and put on the afterburners. Neville tried his best to put a stop to the run but there was no curtailing the big bull who barged over in the corner.
McGreggor, who had come on as a second half substitute, showed the importance of fresh legs down the stretch, and not to mention a scrum half with great vision, when he was cleverly put into space by Issak Finnes to sprint over the try line.
After struggling early in the match the Force forwards worked their way into the game to impose themselves at the scrum and line-out . With the clock running down, replacement front rower Kaitu’u rounded out the celebrations for the visitors with a try from a precision line-out and put the result beyond doubt.
Rapid Rugby action continues in Fiji next week when Fijian Latui and Kagifa Samoa meet on Saturday, 18 May 2019.
South China Tigers
Starting XV: 1.Benjamin HIGGINS, 2.Dayne JANS, 3.Tau KOLOMATANGI, 4.Fin FIELD, 5.Kyle SULLIVAN, 6.James CUNNINGHAM, 7.James SAWYER, 8.Luke VAN DER SMIT, 9.Liam SLATEM (C), 10.Matthew ROSSLEE, 11.Harry SAYER, 12.Tom HILL, 13.Ben AXTEN-BARRETT, 14.Tom VARNDELL, 15.Jack NEVILLE
Reserves: 16.Mitch ANDREWS, 17.Callum MCFEAT-SMITH, 18.Faizal SOLOMONA, 19.Kane BOUCAUT, 20.Josh DOWSING, 21.Bryn PHILLIPS, 22.Sami NAGAVESI, 23.Glyn HUGHES
Starting XV: 1.Chris HEIBERG, 2.Heath TESSMANN, 3.Kieran LONGBOTTOM, 4.Johan BARDOUL, 5.Fergus LEE WARNER, 6.Henry STOWERS, 7.Tevin FERRIS, 8.Brynard STANDER, 9.Issak FINES-LELEIWASA, 22.AJ ALATIMU, 11.Brad LACEY, 12.Henry TAEFU, 13.Marcel BRACHE (C), 14.Rodney DAVIES, 15.Clay UYEN
Reserves: 16.Feleti KAITU’U, 17.Markus VANZATI, 18.Tom SHEMINANT, 20.Ben GRANT, 19.Chris ALCOCK, 21.Angus TAYLOR, 24.Rodney IONA, 23.Jack MCGREGOR
Referee: Timothy BAKER, AR1: Matthew RODDEN, AR2: Edward FITZGERALD, TMO: Patrick KWOK
|01:02||B.Lacey||Power Try||Western Force by 9||[0 – 9]|
|17:37||M.Rosslee||Penalty Goal||Western Force by 6||[3 – 9]|
|23:22||M.Rosslee||Penalty Goal||Western Force by 3||[6 – 9]|
|25:55||L.Slatem||Try||South China Tigers by 2||[11 – 9]|
|26:20||M.Rosslee||Conversion||South China Tigers by 4||[13 – 9]|
|32:52||B.Stander||Try||Western Force by 1||[13 – 14]|
|33:25||A.Alatimu||Conversion||Western Force by 3||[13 – 16]|
|12:10||A.Alatimu||Try||Western Force by 8||[13 – 21]|
|13:25||A.Alatimu||Conversion||Western Force by 10||[13 – 23]|
|15:30||G.Hughes||Penalty Goal||Western Force by 7||[16 – 23]|
|16:10||B.Stander||Try||Western Force by 12||[16 – 28]|
|21:51||J.McGregor||Try||Western Force by 17||[16 – 33]|
|31:51||F.Kaitu’u||Try||Western Force by 22||[16 – 38]|
|32:36||H.Taefu||Conversion||Western Force by 24||[16 – 40]|