Super Rugby
Force slump to ninth straight defeat
ESPN Staff
April 24, 2015
Report Match details
Date/Time: Apr 24, 2015, 19:35 local, 07:35 GMT
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Chiefs 35 - 27 Force
Half-time: 23 - 8
Tries: Elliot, Nanai-Williams, Ngatai, Penalty
Cons: MR McKenzie 3
Pens: MR McKenzie 3
Tries: Cottrell, Hodgson, Morahan, Tessmann
Cons: Burton 2
Pens: Burton
Ian Prior of the Force is given his marching orders, Chiefs v Force, Super Rugby, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, April 24, 2015
Ian Prior's red card was too much for the Force to overcome
© Getty Images
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An Ian Prior red card late into the first half proved to seal the Force's fate with the Chiefs taking advantage of their extra man to score four tries - including a penalty try - resulting in the Force slumping to their ninth straight defeat. Showcasing their trademark grit, the visitors broke the Waikato side's defence early, but poor discipline hampered the side and despite hitting back hard in the second half to score an extra three tries and earn a four-try bonus point, they were unable to pull the match back.

The Force were reduced to 14 men in the 29th minute when half-back Ian Prior was red carded for a dangerous tip tackle on Tim Nanai-Williams. Nanai-Williams landed on his head and shoulder in the incident, but he was able to play on.

Chiefs 35-27 Force (Australia only)

The Force had given a good account of themselves up until that point, winning the territory battle and being rewarded with a 15th-minute try to flanker Angus Cottrell. After Prior was sent off, it was always going to be an uphill battle to get anything out of the match. And a romp of epic proportions looked to be on the cards when the Chiefs extended the gap to 30-8 early in the second half.

But to the Force's credit, they fought on valiantly to score three second-half tries, giving them a four-try bonus point. Had Luke Burton nailed a sideline conversion in the 78th minute, the margin would have been just six points. But his miss allowed the Chiefs to escape with victory.

Without star fly-half Aaron Cruden, the Chiefs were forced to test out Marty McKenzie in the playmaking role, and although the young playmaker proved himself throughout the match, the Chiefs backline's poor handling and silly mistakes hindered the side from securing a runaway win.

The result was the Force's ninth straight defeat - a sad way to mark the 100th Super Rugby appearance of prop Pek Cowan. A loss to the Blues in Auckland next week would consign the Force to their worst losing run, eclipsing the nine straight losses in their inaugural year of 2006. In contrast, the Chiefs sit on top of the table after improving their record to 8-2.

Taking on the Chiefs defence early, the Force were able to open up the defence and crash over through Angus Cottrell to take a slim lead. But poor discipline from the side hampered their play and the Chiefs quickly hit back with a converted try and the hot boot of McKenzie ensured the home side kept the score ticking along early.

Prior's brain implosion delivered a cruel blow to the Force, with a try to Hika Elliot shortly before half-time and a penalty try after the break putting the Chiefs in control. The Force looked stunned and bereft of answers at that point. But a 70m team try to Luke Morahan in the 56th minute sparked life into the Force, with skipper Matt Hodgson and reserve hooker Heath Tessmann also scoring to make matters interesting.

Force skipper Matt Hodgson, playing his first match of the season, was proud of his team's fightback against the odds.

"Obviously it's tough playing with 14 men for 50-odd minutes," Hodgson told Fox Sports. "But the way the boys dug in - even when we were behind by 20-odd points - we kept firing. We were a bit unlucky not to get another bonus point out of the game [for losing by seven points or less]. And it was a big night for Pek Cowan. To play 100 games for one club is pretty special. Pek's been great for the Force."

Stand-in Chiefs skipper Matt Symons was scratching his head for answers after the game when asked about his team's fadeout.

"Pretty frustrated by the second half," Symons said.

The Force produced some of their best rugby despite their defeat © Getty Images
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