The Force overcame the “world’s worst preparation” to give the ladder-leading Blues an almighty scare in a wild Super Rugby clash in the west on Friday night.
Somehow a 22-8 deficit was shaved to 22-18 deep into the second half and the Force battered the Blues line for 26 phases before a turnover cruelled the home side in the 86th minute.
The Force opted for simple, rather than spectacular in stoppage time but as Justin Harrison pointed out in Stan Sport commentary: “One off is not going to do it.”
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Still, this was an incredibly brave effort from the eighth-placed Force, who couldn’t field a team in last weekend’s Super Round due to COVID-19 sweeping through their squad.
The “world’s worst preparation,” Morgan Turinui called it, after Blues fullback Zarn Sullivan finally booted the ball to safety in Perth.
There were three tries apiece, with Manasa Mataele, Jeremy Thrush and Bo Abra scoring for the Force, but none were converted which proved costly.
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“I did not see that drama coming at all but what a quality finish and a really entertaining game,” All Blacks great Justin Marshall said.
The Force are in an odd position with coach Tim Sampson out of a job at season’s end and to be replaced by New Zealander Simon Cron.
But Sampson’s messaging certainly resonated with his players this week.
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‘We spoke about bravery and courage, the themes of the Anzacs all throughout the week and I’m just so proud of my men to see it come to fruition, especially in the second half, holding the Blues scoreless, I just can’t fault the effort,” the Force’s well-spoken captain Feleti Kaitu’u said.
“I think we turned a real corner tonight. For the most part the attitude and intent will take us a long way moving forward.”
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