Vodacom Super Rugby
Force, Reds share spoils
Quade Cooper (Gallo Images)
Perth - Resolute defending by the Force helped the Australian Conference's bottom side hold the Reds to a 11-11 draw in a fiercely contested Super Rugby clash on Saturday.
The Reds dominated possession and territory for long periods but struggled to turn that superiority into points as the Force produced eye-catching big hits in a defiant display in front of their appreciative home crowd.
Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper had the opportunity to win the game but his 75th-minute conversion from near the right touchline was pulled wide.VIDEO: Force v Reds, highlights
"Our defence was great during that game ... they threw a lot at us and we were perhaps unlucky not to grab the win there," Force skipper Matt Hodgson said in a pitchside interview.
"We play good when we play the big teams like the Crusaders and the Reds, we just need that consistency week in week out and we will be a great side."
Despite surprising the seven-times champion Crusaders last month and the Reds in Brisbane in March, the Force were expected to provide little resistance after losing their eight other matches.
But they showed fighting spirit to collect two points in a competitive battle in which both sides tried to run the ball.
"They put a lot of pressure on us at the breakdown, which we knew they would, we adjusted well in the second half but we just needed to turn that possession into points," a disappointed Reds scrumhalf Will Genia said.
"They came out and were very enthusiastic and energetic and credit to them."
The Reds thought they had taken an early lead through Digby Ioane, who announced a deal to join French club Stade Francais in the week. However, the impressive winger was denied the try by the television match official who ruled he was in touch before crossing.
The Force continued to scrap and took advantage of their rare forays forward with flyhalf Sias Ebersohn knocking over penalties in the 22nd and 26th minutes to open up a 6-0 lead.
Cooper responded with one of his own as the Reds went in behind at the break but their Wallaby skipper James Horwill failed to emerge for the second period after taking a heavy blow. The lock looking dazed as he played out the final phases.
More Reds pressure followed, though, before the Force scored the game's opening try in the 52 minute after absorbing the wave of attacks.
Collecting possession near their own line, the home side moved the ball to both flanks with winger Nick Cummins making big yards down the left and number eight Ben McCalman crashing over with Wallabies flanker Liam Gill in tow.
Ebersohn missed woefully with the straightforward conversion to leave the scores at 11-3 and Cooper cut the deficit by three with a second penalty.
The Reds continued to press against the blue wall and eventually the pressure told with replacement Chris Feauai-Sautia deemed to have touch the ball down on the line under a scrum of bodies in the 74th minute by the television match official.
But Cooper failed to snatch the victory with the conversion and the Force held firm in the final minutes.
Try: Ben McCalman
Penalties: Sias Ebersohn (2)Reds:
Try: Chris Feauai-Sautia
Penalties: Quade Cooper (2)Teams:Force:
15. Sam Norton-Knight, 14. Patrick Dellit, 13. Ben Jacobs, 12. Kyle Godwin, 11. Nick Cummins, 10. Sias Ebersohn, 9. Alby Mathewson, 8. Ben McCalman, 7. Chris Alcock, 6. Matthew Hodgson (Captain), 5. Sam Wykes, 4. Toby Lynn, 3. Kieran Longbottom, 2. Heath Tessmann, 1. Pekahou Cowan
Substitutes: 16. James Hilterbrand, 17. Tetera Faulkner, 18. Rory Walton, 19. Richard Brown, 20. Brett Sheehan, 21. Junior Rasolea, 22. Jayden HaywardReds:
15 Jono Lance, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Albert Anae
Substitutes: 16 James Hanson, 17 James Slipper, 18 Ed O’Donoghue, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Chris Feauai-Sautia