Western Force beat Chiefs in major upset
March 22, 2014
Western Force fly-half Sias Ebersohn is taken by the Chiefs defence
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The Western Force can dare to dream of landing a maiden finals berth in Super Rugby after a brace of tries from skipper Matt Hodgson lifted them to an 18-15 victory over the Chiefs in Saturday night's clash in Perth.
Hodgson scored the only two tries of the match to secure the Force's third straight win, the result lifting the Perth-based franchise into the top six. The Force now have the chance to stretch their winning run to a franchise-record four games when they take on the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium on April 5.
In a match filled with bruising tackles, the Force's defence was unrelenting, keeping the Chiefs' prolific backline at bay for the entire 80 minutes.
The win was soured by a suspected shoulder injury to Wallabies forward Hugh McMeniman, who was playing his first game since hurting his neck three weeks ago. Prop Kieran Longbottom was carried off in the 69th minute after copping a knee to the head while making a try-saving tackle.
The Force endured a few nervous moments after the final siren as the Chiefs advanced down the wing. But a knock-on ended the hopes of the defending champions, with the 16,380-strong crowd cheering for joy as the Force players celebrated another deserved victory.
The Western Force silenced their doubters with an impressive win against the defending champions (video available in Australia only)
The Chiefs struggled to create clear-cut attacking forays throughout the match, but three penalties from fly-half Aaron Cruden gave them a 9-8 lead at half-time.
The Force created a number of good chances early in the match, with a powerful rolling maul sending Hodgson over in the 13th minute. Force fly-half Sias Ebersohn nailed a 47m penalty to give his side an 8-3 lead after 26 minutes.
The Chiefs should have been on the back foot when prop Jamie Mackintosh was shown a yellow card for repeat infringements in the 36th minute. Instead, two penalties either side of half-time gave the Chiefs a 12-8 advantage.
The Force grabbed back the lead when Hodgson barged over for his second try in the 46th minute, before Ebersohn's 58th minute penalty extended the lead to six points.
"I'm absolutely thrilled for the blokes," Force coach Michael Foley said. "The amount of character shown out there tonight against a champion side was outstanding. You could see the amount of heart the boys put into that performance."
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie was disappointed with his team's effort. "I thought we were poor," Rennie said. "We just made far too many errors. It's hard to believe we led at half-time because we hardly fired a shot. We're a better side than that. Even mentally we didn't look that sharp."