Match report: Force blow aside makeshift Blues
March 15, 2008
The Force's long wait to notch a Super 14 rugby win in New Zealand came to an end today when took advantage of a weakened Blues side to win 27-17 at Auckland's North Harbour Stadium today.
Untimely injuries during the game badly affected the Blues' gameplan leaving them with a makeshift backline which saw centre Isaia Toeava taking over at No 10 from a wobbly Nick Evans after half an hour.
Ten minutes before, Evans had been struck in the jaw by teammate Nick Williams' elbow as both went for a tackle.
Minutes into the second half, the Blues lost their main strike weapon with Joe Rokocoko leaving the field with what looked like a shoulder injury to be replaced by George Pisi.
The Force, trailing 7-17 at halftime, were able to exploit the inevitable holes that appeared in the Blues midfield to run in two second half tries with No 10 Matt Giteau punching over two penalties and two conversions.
It was a fast moving encounter from the kick-off and it was the Blues who found their rhythm first.
With skipper Troy Flavell, prop John Afoa and centre Benson Stanley prominent in the build-up, prop Tony Woodcock had the simplest of tasks crashing over for the first try of the game which Evans easily converted from close range in the 10th minute.
The Force missed two good chances to score. Blues fullback Ben Atiga pulled off a try-saving tackle on right wing Scott Staniforth in the 14th minute and then Matt Giteau missed a penalty from in front of the posts after Benson Stanley was pinged for a high tackle on the Wallabies No 10.
Four minutes later, Force fullback Cameron Sheperd dotted down after some expansive play to give Giteau the chance to make amends with an easy conversion to tie the scores.
Minutes later the Blues were operating with a makeshift backline as halfback Danny Lee came off temporarily for treatment on a cut eye-brow while Taniela Moa replaced him. Despite the disruption, the Blues forged ahead by scoring another fine try on the stroke of halftime through Anthony Tuitavake.
But there was little left in the Blues' tanks a s the Force ran them ragged in the second half with Giteau masterfully pulling the strings.
The Blues were left gasping when Force No 8 Richard Brown crossed for his try after a lengthy buildup of several phases in the 64th minute.
Another try to Tamaiti Horua and a couple of second half penalties to Giteau ended any Blues hopes of a comeback and resuming their winning ways after losing 17-22 to the Sharks in Durban last week.
Flavell made no excuses for the defeat saying the Force had played well.
"We were spilling ball in the second half and they capitalised on it," Flavell said.
"The Force played extremely well tonight -- they have come a long way."
Force captain Nathan Sharpe said despite their 24-29 loss last week to the Crusaders, the team had been confident leading into today's game.
"We were disappointed with the first 40 but the pleasing thing for me was it did not take a great deal of screaming and yelling, everyone was disappointed in themselves and we certainly righted that in the second half."
Result of a Super 14 rugby match played in Auckland today:
Force 27 (Cameron Sheperd, Richard Brown, Tamaiti Horua tries; Matt Giteau 2 pen, 3 con) Blues 17 (Tony Woodcock, Anthony Tuitavake tries; Ben Atiga pen, con; Nick Evans con). Halftime: 7-17.
Blues: Ben Atiga, Anthony Tuitavake, Isaia Toeava, Benson Stanley, Joe Rokocoko, Nick Evans, Danny Lee, Nick Williams, Justin Collins, Jerome Kaino, Troy Flavell (captain), Anthony Boric, John Afoa, Kven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Tom McCartney, Nick White, Kurtis Haiu, Onosai Tololima-Auva'a, Taniela Moa, Rudi Wulf, George Pisi
Force: Cameron Shepherd, Scott Staniforth, Ryan Cross, Lachlan MacKay, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, James Stannard, Richard Brown, David Pocock, Scott Fava, Nathan Sharpe (captain), Tom Hockings, AJ Whalley, Tai McIsaac, Troy Takiari. Reserves: Luke Holmes, Pek Cowan, Sam Wykes, Tamaiti Horua, Chris O'Young, Scott Daruda, Nick Cummins.