The Western Force has won the first match of their South African tour and broken a three-match losing streak against the Cheetahs with a 23-16 victory in Bloemfontein tonight.
The Cheetahs had the majority of possession (66%) and pressured the Western Force’s line continuously throughout the match but the Western Australian’s were relentless in their defensive efforts.
Bloemfontein-born Sias Ebersohn was flawless with the boot on his old stomping ground, kicking two conversions and three penalties while Jayden Hayward and Nick Cummins crossed the try-line off the back of shared team effort.
Head Coach Michael Foley said his side knew they would have to bring a strong defensive effort to the match tonight and the team left nothing on the field.
“[The Cheetahs] certainly move the ball around a lot and we did believe that if we defended well enough and if we were strong enough in that area, opportunities would come for us tonight,” he said. “We felt that was likely to happen late in the game rather than early so it took a lot of hard work from the team upfront.
“In that first half, in those first 20 or 30 minutes, our guys worked very hard and as a result got rewarded with opportunities and were aware enough in those moments to take them.
“There are a lot of guys in that team tonight who’ve been at the Force for a long time and haven’t necessarily been rewarded for their hard work and they get a sense that every player in the squad, not just guys that are here but are back home as well, puts in for each other and that drives them.
“Things like defence and breakdown for us – I’m always very confident they guys are going to give maximum effort.”
The Force kicked off the scoring inside the three minute mark when Angus Cottrell was illegally cleared from the ruck and Sias Ebersohn slotted his first of five goals for the evening.
After missing his first penalty goal for the evening following a Force-collapsed scrum, Johan Goosen evened up the scores for the home side when after 12 phases of play the Force was penalised for not releasing.
Marcel Brache looked to have kick-started the Force’s first try for the match when he smothered a Cheetahs kick and combined with Sam Wykes to send Kyle Godwin over the try-line but it was called back after the TMO confirmed the smothered ball had bounced off an offside Ebersohn.
Nick Cummins also looked to have given the Force fans a reason to celebrate when he drove the ball across the line in a maul but the Cheetahs defence held it up. The resulting scrum was collapsed by the Cheetahs and the Force sent the ball inside to Adam Coleman who was brought down before the try-line, drawing another penalty goal for Ebersohn to take the score to 6-3.
The Force was finally rewarded for their attacking efforts when captain Matt Hodgson pilfered the ball in his own territory and made the quick pass to Hayward who followed the combined efforts of Marcel Brache and Nathan Charles down the field to run it over in the corner. Ebersohn’s conversion pushed the lead out to 13-3.
With two minutes remaining in the half, Ebersohn slotted his third penalty to give the Force a 13-point buffer but just before the siren sounded, Goosen responded with three points of his own to take the scoreline to 16-6 at half-time.
The Cheetahs tested the Force defence in the second half and when Hodgson was shown a yellow-card for repeated infringements, the Cheetahs capitalised, scoring under the posts despite Kieran Longbottom’s efforts to get a hand underneath the grounding. Goosen’s conversion had them back within three points.
The Force rallied to slow the Cheetahs momentum and an intercept from the deft hands of Hayward gave them the opportunity.
Patiently moving the ball downfield, the Force drew the Cheetahs defence in and Ian Prior sent a wide cut out pass from the base of the ruck to send Cummins over unopposed. Ebersohn converted and the Force led, 23-13.
The Cheetahs continued to pressure the Force defensive line and another Goosen penalty goal had them within seven points but they couldn’t close the gap, losing 23-16.
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