Western Australian rugby fans got what they have been waiting for tonight with the Western Force returning to the field in opening game of World Series Rugby, downing the Fiji Warriors 24-14 in front of 19,466 screaming fans at nib Stadium.
The action wasn’t limited to the field with Aussie rockers Wolfmother hyping up the Sea of Blue with an epic set before kick off, at halftime and after the final whistle.
Force Head Coach Tim Sampson says he is proud of the team’s effort but more so that they were able to welcome the Sea of Blue back in style.
“Right now it is just an overwhelming sense of pride and also relief,” he says.
“There was such a big build up and tonight was all about the players and the fans.
“For the fans, the members, the supporters and everyone that loves rugby in WA this win is for them and they deserve to see the Western Force playing here in Perth.
“Hopefully we did them proud tonight, we threw the ball around and played some really exciting attacking rugby right up until the end there and that is what this World Series Rugby is all about.”
World Series Rugby showed what is has to offer from the first minute at nib Stadium with both sides keeping the ball in hand and looking to play with pace and width.
It didn’t take long for the Force to drive deep into the Fijian’s territory before Andrew Deegan and Rodney Iona teamed up to put Marcel Brache into the corner for the first try in World Series Rugby.
Peter Grant converted from the touchline to put the Force up 7-0 in the early stages.
With the Fijians down to 14-men following a yellow card the Force went on the hunt for more points and found them through backrower Johan Bardoul as his barged his way over for a try on debut. Grant converted to extend the lead to 14-0 after 14 minutes.
Controlling possession and territory Deegan steered the Force back into a dangerous position and with numbers to the left Brynard Stander finished the job crashing over for the Force’s third of the first half to put the hosts up 19-0 after 40 minutes.
The Fiji Warriors started the better of the two sides after the break with scrumhalf Peni Matawalu scoring just minutes into the second half and converting to open their account and reduce the margin to 12 points.
Looking to steady the ship the Force turned to their forwards with the big men rumbling up to earn quality territory just 10 metres from the line. A well-worked rolling maul did the rest with Feleti Kaitu’u falling over the line to take the score out to 24-7.
With the game on the line the Fiji Warriors stepped up the intensity making a number of barnstorming midfield breaks but the Force scrambled well in defence to shut down the visitor’s advances.
With time against them, the Fijians put themselves back in the contest with Mosese Voka scoring a pick-and-drive try. The successful conversion brought the margin back to just 10 points with five minutes to play.
The Fiji Warriors continued to hammer the Force line, driving into the Force’s 22 but the men in blue stood strong to create a turnover before Ryan Louwrens booted the ball into the stands to secure the 24-14 victory.
Next up the Western Force will play host another pacific powerhouse when they take on Tonga on Sunday, 13 May.