The Western Force have swept all before them in 2019 and delivered a perfect finish to a flawless campaign by defeating Fijian Latui 45-24 at HBF Park to claim the Pacific Showcase Series crown.
The West Australian’s were tested by Fiji but a strong start and an equally impressive finish was enough to send almost 13,000 members and supporters in the Sea of Blue home happy.
Both sides started tentatively, happy to prod and poke at the defensive line without really getting up enough steam to break through. The Western Force in particular appeared to struggle with the willingness of Fijian Latui to kick the ball and back themselves in to create a turnover in a more attacking position.
The circuit breaker came in the seventh minute when the Force made the most of a period of sustained pressure deep in their attacking zone as Rod Davies dashed over to register the first score of the match.
In past matches the Western Force have been able to string together two or three tries in quick succession and Fiji were alert to that danger. The visitors pushed hard to score themselves and were rewarded with a penalty right in front of the uprights and they took the three points on offer.
A try however was harder to come by for Fijian Latui and they found themselves on the back foot again when the Force turned a lineout into an unstoppable maul as Johan Bardoul crash his way over.
The home side were at it again just six minutes later, this time Andrew Deegan was the one to cause the Fijian’s pain, reaching full stretch to dot the ball over the try line.
Down by 16 points the fightback came in an impressive five minute burst from Fijian Latui, classy flyhalf Malele Tikotani and prop Luke Tagi bagging tries that reduced the Force lead to just four points.
That appeared it would be the margin the Force would take into the sheds, however, as happens more often than not in Global Rapid Rugby, another try was scored after the hooter had sounded. After sustained pressure from the Force forwards a quick recycle and bullet pass by Issak Fines to a dashing Henry Taefu saw him slide through a gap and score. With Andrew Deegan’s successful conversion the lead lead was back to 11 as the players took a well earned rest.
Whatever Fijian Latui Head Coach Senirusi Seruvakula said to his team during the break it worked, as they cashed in with a Power Try directly from the restart. With nine points in the bank, the visitors were just a couple shy now of the Force and you could see their energy was up and about.
That however would be the closest Fijian Latui would come as the Western Force, like they have done throughout the Asia and Pacific Showcase Series in 2019, came home with a wet sail.
Rampaging number 8 Brynard Stander began the charge with a typically straight line run that saw him brush aside two tacklers and cross in the corner.
The next score was celebrated roundly by players and fans alike as local WA youngster Rory O’Sullivan registered his first try for the club. O’Sullivan was brought into the squad as cover in the scrumhalf position and has shown he isn’t out of his depth at this level with some assured performances over a number of weeks.
With a 14 point lead and a bonus point in their back pocket for scoring at least four tries in the match the Force could have easily just run out the clock. However, as they did in the opening half, they had the final word after the hooter had sounded.
With Fiji in control and looking to end their night on a high, they moved the ball quickly across field to try to find a gap. Force wing Clay Uyen saw the danger and beautifully swooped to intercept the ball and run 35 meters the other way to create a memorable end to an entertaining game and an unbeaten series.
Starting XV: 1.Harrison LLOYD, 2.Feleti KAITU’U, 3.Kieran LONGBOTTOM, 4.Johan BARDOUL, 5.Fergus LEE-WARNER, 6.Henry STOWERS, 7.Tevin FERRIS, 8.Brynard STANDER, 9.Issak FINES, 10.Andrew DEEGAN, 11.Clay UYEN, 12.Henry TAEFU, 13.Marcel BRACHE (C), 14.Rod DAVIES, 15.Jack McGREGOR
Reserves: 16.Heath TESSMAN, 17.Cameron ORR, 18.Tom SHEMINANT, 19.Jeremy THRUSH, 20.Leon POWER, 21.Rory O’SULLIVAN, 22.AJ ALATIMU, 23.Nick JOOSTE
Starting XV: 1.Joeli VEITAYAKI, 2.Mesulame DOLOKOTO, 3.Luke TAGI, 4.Sikeli NABOU, 5.Tevita NAQALI, 6.Mosese VOKA (C), 7.Elia CANAKAIVATA, 8.Peni RAIDRE, 9.Frank LOMANI, 10.Malele TIKOTANI, 11.John STEWART, 12.Cyril REECE, 13.Joeli LUTUMAILAGI, 14.Ifereimi TOVILEVU, 15.Apisalome WAQATABU
Reserves: 16.Veremalua VUGAKOTO, 17.Eroni MAWI, 18.Mateo QOLISESE, 19.Filimoni SERU, 20.Johnny DYER, 21.Henry SENILOLI, 22.Serupepeli VULARIKA, 23.Tuidraki SAMUSAMUVODRE
Referee: Tim BAKER, AR1: Mark SHERIFF, AR2: Kyle BURNETT, TMO: Alex NINKOV
|7:15||R.Davies (WF)||Try||Force by 5||5 – 0|
|12:06||A.Waqatabu (FL)||Penalty Goal||Force by 2||5 – 3|
|18:31||J.Bardoul (WF)||Try||Force by 7||10 – 3|
|19:46||A.Deegan (WF)||Conversion||Force by 9||12 – 3|
|23:57||A.Deegan (WF)||Try||Force by 14||17 – 3|
|24:20||A.Deegan (WF)||Conversion||Force by 16||19 – 3|
|27:18||M.Tikotani (FL)||Try||Force by 11||19 – 8|
|31:52||L.Tagi (FL)||Try||Force by 6||19 – 13|
|32:20||A.Waqatabu (FL)||Conversion||Force by 4||19 – 15|
|35:00||H.Taefu (WF)||Try||Force by 9||24 – 15|
|35:00||A.Deegan (WF)||Conversion||Force by 11||26 – 15|
|1:28||J.Stewart (FL)||Power Try||Force by 2||26 – 24|
|9:39||B.Stander (WF)||Try||Force by 7||31 – 24|
|30:15||R.O’Sullivan (WF)||Try||Force by 12||36 – 24|
|31:31||A.Deegan (WF)||Conversion||Force by 14||38 – 24|
|35:00||C.Uyen (WF)||Try||Force by 19||43 – 24|
|35:00||L.Power (WF)||Conversion||Force by 21||45 – 24|