The Western Force remain unbeaten in the 2019 Global Rapid Rugby Asia Showcase Series, and in the process have built an unassailable lead at the top of the ladder with one match remaining, following a hard-fought win against the Asia Pacific Dragons in Singapore.
In hot and humid conditions both sides found it tough going but a try just before half time to Force hooker Heath Tessmann, and converted by Ian Prior, was enough to get the visitors over the line.
The match was the tightest of the six Rapid Rugby games played to date and kept spectators on the edge of their seats with chances coming at either end of the field down the stretch.
It was toe to toe in the early stages but the Dragons made the first breakthrough when Latiume Fosita slotted a penalty goal in the 13th minute.
A short while later the Western Force had their best chance to add some scoreboard pressure when Dragons skipper Stacey Ili was handed a yellow card for repeated offside infringements by the home side.
The Dragons were forced into a period of desperate defence and were relieved to win a scrum just five meters from the Force scoring zone. They were however on the backfoot again when Fosita’s clearing punt was charged down by Force outside centre Marcel Brache, however the ball trickled out before the speedy outside centre could ground it.
Despite their numerical advantage the Force couldn’t prise open the Asia Pacific Dragons defence and, coincidentally, it was only when the Singapore side was back to full strength that the Force finally found an opening.
Securing a scrum 15 meters from their line, the Force forwards played it to perfection and set up a driving maul that the Dragons were unable to repel. As the maul gathered speed it was almost inevitable that the Force were going to score, and it was evergreen veteran Tessmann who found the ball in his hands as they rumbled over the line and he took great delight as he slammed it into the turf to register the first five pointer of the afternoon.
The half time break was welcomed as the energy sapping conditions took its toll. With 10 rolling substitutions allowed, both coaches injected fresh legs into the contest with the game sitting well and truly in the balance.
Good, solid rugby ensued, and while the scoring wasn’t forthcoming, the game still had plenty of intrigue and kept supporters engaged.
Force flyhalf AJ Alatimu had an opportunity to extend the visitors lead on 50 minutes but wasn’t able to connect on his penalty goal attempt. Fosita then had his chance as the Dragons won a penalty 40 meters out, but he too couldn’t connect, leaving both sides searching for their next score.
When Asaeli Tikoirotuma was illegally tackled in the air after taking a beautiful grab off a long kick from fullback Kali Hala the Dragons found themselves with a line-out inside their attacking 22. However, an unfortunate knock-on gave the ball back to the Force who gleefully cleared the ball to avert the immediate danger.
As they had done in their past two outings, the home side finished strongly and were still hopeful of getting a try in with just 60 seconds left on a clock but were again left frustrated after giving away a penalty.
Rapid Rugby action continues in Asia next week when the South China Tigers and Western Force meet in Hong Kong on Sunday, 12 May 2019.
Asia Pacific Dragons
Starting XV: 1.Haamea AHIO, 2.Sekonaia POLE, 3.Ropate RINAKAMA, 4.Louis Johannes CONRADIE, 5.Joketani KOROI, 6.Michael MCKEE, 7.Fotu LOKOTUI, 8.Nili LATU, 22.Leon FUKOFUKA, 21.Latiume FOSITA, 10.Mitchell SCOTT, 12.Stacey ILI(c), 13.Asaeli TIKOIROTUMA, 14.Junior LALOIFI, 15.Kali HALA
Reserves: 16.Sefo SAKALIA, 17.Taniela KOROI, 18.Latu TALAKAI, 19.Naulia DAWAI, 20.Irwin FINAU, 9.Kurt HAMMER, 11.Sireli BOBO, 23.Sheldon TARAWA
Starting XV: 1.Chris HEIBERG, 2.Heath TESSMANN, 3.Kieran LONGBOTTOM, 4.Fergus LEE WARNER, 5.Johan BARDOUL, 6.Henry STOWERS, 7.Tevin FERRIS, 8.Brynard STANDER, 9.Ian PRIOR(c), 22.Aj ALATIMU, 11.Brad LACEY, 13.Henry TAEFU, 12.Marcel BRACHE, 14.Rodney DAVIES, 15.Jack MCGREGOR
Reserves: 27.Andrew READY, 17.Markus VANZATI, 18.Tom SHEMINANT, 20.Leon POWER, 19.Chris ALCOCK, 21.Issak FINES, 23.Clay UYEN, 24.Masivesi DAKUWAQA
Referee: Matthew RODDEN AR1: Stephen COPEMAN AR2: Leow WEI LIANG
|13:26||L.Fosita||Penalty||Asia Pacific Dragons by 3||[3-0]|
|33:00||H.Tessmann||Try||Western Force by 2||[3-5]|
|33:48||I.Prior||Conversion||Western Force by 4||[3-7]|