The Emirates Western Force has fallen six points short of their first win in Wellington, going down to the Hurricanes, 22-16, tonight.
The Force pulled their way back from a 15-3 half-time deficit, controlling the ball for long periods of the match and getting within striking distance at the final whistle, before having to settle for a consolation bonus point for their efforts.
Coincidentally, all the Force points came from the former Hurricanes pairing of Alby Mathewson and Jayden Hayward.
Emirates Western Force flyhalf Sam Norton-Knight said the result was disappointing after strong lead-up to the match.
“It felt good out there, our preparation all week was fantastic,” he said. “At times we were able to execute, it was just little areas that let us down unfortunately.
“Our set piece was awesome tonight. The lineout was a massive step up from last week and Toby [Lynn] has worked really hard with Stilesy there and we were really happy with the ball they were able to deliver.
“Using tennis terminology, you haven’t broken serve until you’ve held; and you haven’t put points on the board until you’ve exited properly and put pressure back on them, and that’s what we were unable to do tonight. It’s a little bit frustrating but you play against a team like the Hurricanes and they can hurt you from positions that other teams can’t and that’s what they did tonight.”
The Emirates Western Force dominated the early exchanges with the Western Australians controlling possession and playing inside Hurricanes territory.
However, a string of penalties allowed the Hurricanes to blow downfield, putting fullback Beauden Barrett in goal-kicking range for the first penalty of the match after 11 minutes.
The home side backed up with their first five-pointer eight minutes later when front-rower Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen spun and then rolled his way over the try line with Barrett adding the extras for a 10-0 lead.
A quick tap from Mathewson almost netted the Force’s first try, when the crafty scrumhalf delivered a neat inside ball to prop Tetera Faulkner to charge through to the line. However, television match official Glenn Newman judged that the rampant tighthead had been halted just short of the line.
The near call sparked the Wellington machine and from a quick lineout with winger Alapati Leiua slicing through the defensive line to put Brad Shields in for the final try of the half and a 15-3 advantage.
The Force controlled the run of play early in the second term and was rewarded with another Hayward penalty goal, only to have the three points nullified by a Tisi Pusi try a minute later.
Trailing 22-6, the Force controlled the running for the final 20 minutes, kick-started by an outstanding individual Mathewson try. Receiving the ball off the top of another well-performing lineout, the half carved through the set piece defence and danced around the converging defence to touch down beneath the posts.
Hayward’s conversion and later penalty goal – stemming from a yellow card to replacement James Broadhurst – drew the Perth-based side to within six.
However, tasked with moving the ball from their own score line on fulltime, the Force got to within 30 metres of their destination before the Canes forced the turnover to seal the home win.
The Emirates Western Force will now head to Canberra to face the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium on Saturday, 27 April.
2013 Super Rugby – Week 10
Friday, 19 April 2013 at Westpac Stadium
?Hurricanes 22 (Tuis Pisi, Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, Brad Shields tries; Beauden Barrett 2/3 conversions, 1/3 penalties) defeated Emirates Western Force 16 (Alby Mathewson try; Jayden Hayward 1/1 conversions, 3/4 penalties)