The Emirates Western Force has finished its 2013 Super Rugby season in style with a 21-15 win over the Brumbies at nib stadium tonight.
In a fitting farewell for the side’s departing players – including stalwart Brett Sheehan and inaugural squad member Richard Brown – the Force crafted one of its most complete performances of the season, with the home side stifling the Australian Conference leaders’ attack and continually crossing the gain line to help set up the three-tries-to-two victory.
No.8 Ben McCalman was brutally physical in a man-of-the-match performance from the back of the scrum and worked in unison with his back-row partners Matt Hodgson and Chris Alcock.
Winger Nick Cummins was also highly involved – particularly under the high ball – and brought the crowd to their feet on numerous occasions with trademark fearless running in slippery conditions.
The only sour note to the evening was lock Hugh McMeniman’s early exit from the match with a neck injury while fellow second-rower Sam Wykes was also helped from the field with a leg injury.
The win was the Force’s fourth of the season, adding the Brumbies to their Reds, Crusaders and Highlanders scalps in season 2013.
Emirates Western Force Head Coach Michael Foley said tonight’s result was reward for the team’s unwavering commitment throughout the season.
“Coming out of a season like last season where there was such a bleak feel, the players pulled together very strongly from the start and learnt to play for each other above all else,” he said.
“I think the standards the players set from day one was above anything they had before and a large amount of that should be attributed to Hodgo.
“There were times during the year when we kept pushing which is why we were able to go out there tonight and play as well as we did.”
In a set-piece dominated first half, the Force was first onto the scoreboard through Hodgson after he caught the Brumbies’ defence napping with a quick tap from a penalty on the five-metre line to burrow over for the first try of the match.
While Jayden Hayward converted, Brumbies flyhalf Christian Lealiifano reduced the deficit to four points with a 33rd-minute penalty goal.
In the shadows of half time, the Force was again the beneficiaries of another quick tap, when scrumhalf Alby Mathewson played on from a scrum penalty on the attacking five-metre line, before offloading to McCalman, who crashed over for his second try of the year.
Hayward’s conversion extended the lead to 14-3 at half time.
Six minutes into the new term, the Force was in for their third and one of their premier tries of the season. Cummins cut through off an attacking scrum on the halfway mark, delivering a neat backhand pass to inside centre Junior Rasolea, who raced around opposing fullback Jesse Mogg for his first Super Rugby touchdown.
While Hayward again added the extras, the Brumbies’ response was swift with Matt Toomua gifting Tevita Kuridrani a try under the posts – and Lealiifano the conversion – two minutes later to trail 21-10.
While hooker James Hilterbrand was denied by the television match official in the corner at the 58-minute mark, Brumbies lock Scott Fardy had no such problems when he crossed the line from a George Smith quick tap eight minutes later.
While Lealiifano had his conversion attempt waved away and Hayward missed a penalty to put the result beyond a converted try with two minutes remaining, a defiant Force held on to provide their loyal Sea of Blue with a memorable finish to the season.