A courageous Emirates Western Force has held off a potent Crusaders outfit to win by two points at nib stadium in Perth tonight, 16-14.
Looking to respond following last weekend’s disappointment against the Rebels, a resilient defensive effort from the Force paved the way for the victory with the home side repelling countless waves of Crusader attack and holding its nerve in the final 25 minutes to maintain the eventual two-point advantage.
In an often brutal, physical contest, the Force was well served by the front-foot ball provided by man of the match Richard Brown, while newcomers Ed Stubbs, Junior Rasolea and Rory Walton made their presence known against a significantly more experienced opposition.
Emirates Western Force Head Coach Michael Foley said he was impressed with his side’s team performance and determination to respond following last weekend’s loss to the Rebels.
“We weren’t happy with what we put on the field last week and the players led the way in terms of critiquing themselves and making the decision that they wanted it to be a lot better this week,” he said.
“It’s a real testament to them to see that difference out there tonight – I thought they were fantastic.
“Every player that took part in the game, which was the whole 22, did very well. You can look at games in different ways but to me there was a real unity in terms of what the players did on the field and it didn’t matter who we put out there, they were aligned to that drive that the team had to get the result.”
In his first run-on appearance for the Emirates Western Force, flyhalf Sam Norton-Knight continually kept the visitors on the back foot by tucking the ball behind the defensive line, and ghosting between two Crusaders defenders to stretch out and score the opening try of the game in the third minute.
Fullback Jayden Hayward – also making his run-on debut for the Force – converted his playmaker’s five-pointer and added a 12th-minute penalty goal to give his side an early 10-0 lead.
Not to be forgotten, the seven-time Super Rugby champions edged their way back into the game; first through a Tyler Bleyendaal penalty goal before lock Luke Romano capitalised a burst down the left hand side to cross in the corner and bring the Cantabrians to within two points.
Another two Hayward penalty goals provided the Force with a 16-8 half-time buffer before a fired-up Crusaders team returned the field following the break and immediately began reducing the deficit through two penalty goals to Bleyendaal.
However, with 25 minutes to play, a two-point lead and wave after wave of vocal support storming in from the ‘Sea of Blue’, the Force combined in a steely defensive effort to hold the Crusaders at bay and seal an emphatic victory in front of an extremely appreciative home crowd.
The Emirates Western Force will head to New Zealand this week to take on the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday (19 April).
2013 Super Rugby – Week 9
Saturday, 13 April 2013 at nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 7.45pm (local)
Emirates Western Force 16 (Sam Norton-Knight try; Jayden Hayward 1/1 conversions; Jayden Hayward 3/4 penalties) defeated Crusaders 14 (Luke Romano try; Tyler Bleyendaal conversions; Tyler Bleyendaal 3/3 penalties)
Emirates Western Force
1. Pek Cowan, 2. Heath Tessmann, 3. Salesi Ma’afu, 4. Toby Lynn, 5. Sam Wykes, 6. Ben McCalman, 7. Matt Hodgson (c), 8. Richard Brown, 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Sam Norton-Knight, 11. Alfie Mafi, 12. Kyle Godwin, 13. Junior Rasolea, 14. Ed Stubbs, 15. Jayden Hayward. Res: 16. Ben Whittaker, 17. Tetera Faulkner, 18. Rory Walton, 19. Chris Alcock, 20. Mick Snowden, 21. Sias Ebersohn, 22. Patrick Dellit
Coach: Michael Foley
1. Wyatt Crockett, 2. Corey Flynn, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Tom Donnelly, 6. George Whitelock (c), 7. Shane Christie, 8. Luke Whitelock, 9. Andy Ellis, 10. Tyler Bleyendaal, 11. Tom Marshall, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Robbie Fruean, 14. Adam Whitelock, 15. Israel Dagg. Res: 16. Benn Funnell, 17. Joe Moody, 18. Samuel Whitelock, 19. Jordan Taufua, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Telusa Veainu, 22. Zac Guildford.
Coach: Todd Blackadder