The Greg Growden Medal
Ben McCalman now top of the pops
March 17, 2014
Western Force were too good for the Highlanders in Dunedin (video available only in Australia)
Australia's rugby focus was honed on Canberra over the weekend, which was not surprising given the magnitude of the match between the Brumbies and New South Wales Waratahs: that focus was something to do with the top billing in the conference and the bragging rights after the testy verbals in the week leading into the match.
So it might have escaped your notice that Western Force went back-to-back with another win over the Highlanders in Dunedin, a week after defeating rudderless Melbourne Rebels in Perth. What should not have escaped your notice was another immense performance from Ben McCalman, the Force No.8 producing clearly the standout effort of the weekend by a player with an Australian Super Rugby side.
Ben McCalman was immense again for the Force © Getty Images
McCalman was cited for a tip tackle in the 73rd minute of the match in Dunedin, but he was otherwise superb and his try was just the icing on his personal cake; he now tops the season's standings after five rounds to suggest he might be more than a squad member when Ewen Mckenzie names his first Wallabies outfit of the year. His absence if found guilty of the tip tackle - potentially as long as four matches - will land a hammer blow as the Force look to build on the momentum of their first back-to-back wins since April 2011.
Force halves Alby Mathewson and Sias Ebersohn were also superb in Dunedin, with the former now the top-ranked No.9 in the standings. The trio have been key for the Force in the past two rounds, and they will continue to be so as the Perth side chase their stated target of eight wins this season.
In Canberra, the individual performance were equally matched but Scott Fardy was particularly noteworthy while Michael Hooper was best for the Waratahs.Fardy was brutally physical in defence while Hooper won turnovers and scored a try as the visitors threatened to play a get-out-of-jail card.
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