The Western Force has fallen to the Crusaders, 30-7, at Christchurch’s AMI Stadium (Addington) this evening.
The home side added two penalty tries to a 16-0 half-time lead to take the eventual 23-point win, while the Force’s try came through winger Dane Haylett-Petty, who crossed for his first try since returning to the Force and his first Asteron Life Super Rugby five-pointer since 2010.
Head Coach Michael Foley said despite the final result, he was proud of his side’s effort.
“Our execution was off in that first 20 minutes and that allowed them to get momentum,” he said. “[The Crusaders] are a very good side and they force you play out of your half and we didn’t do that as well as we have done at other times this season.
“On the flip side, I think our guys put in a massive effort. There had been a lot of talk leading into the game about the four weeks we’ve just gone through and on top of that the injuries we’ve had, and I thought the guys came out after half time and battled on.
“They really launched into it and there wasn’t much in that game. When you play a team like the Crusaders , they only need a couple of little errors to get in there and while we gave them that leg up early, they kept on fighting and I’m proud of the effort tonight.”
On a chilly Christchurch night, the Crusaders held a monopoly on early possession and territory, returning two Colin Slade penalty goals inside the first 25 minutes against a resolute Force defence.
Unable to go through the defensive wall, the Crusaders went over it when Andy Ellis kicked across field for winger Johnny McNicholl. From there the ball swung left before returning to where it came with the right winger touching down in the corner, with Slade’s conversion giving his side a 13-0 lead.
McNicholl was denied a second six minutes from the break after prop Tim Perry claimed Sias Ebersohn off the ball, with another Slade penalty settling the 16-0 half-time score.
Having missed out on possession through the first half, the Force began making amends early in the second when Dane Haylett-Petty found space down the left side to put Nick Cummins over the line, only to be held up by a desperate Canterbury defence.
However, the Force did not wait long to cross in earnest when, from the ensuing scrum, Haylett-Petty stepped inside the defence before bumping off two Crusaders to cross under the posts. Ebersohn added the straightforward conversion to bring his side to within striking distance at 16-7 after 50 minutes.
While the visitors continued to ask questions of the opposition defensive line throughout the second 40 minutes, it was the Crusaders that added two tries inside the final 10 minutes. With Force lock Sam Wykes sin-binned for not rolling away, the Crusaders added their first penalty try when the Force was ruled to collapse a rolling maul nearing the try line.
The Crusaders were then denied an 80-metre try when Cummins chased down McNicholl into touch on the try line, before the Cantabrians added a final penalty try from a screwing scrum after the 80 minutes had elapsed.
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