The Western Force has fallen one game short of its maiden finals series after succumbing to the Brumbies, 47-25, at Canberra’s GIO Stadium tonight. Having already registered a club record nine wins this season, the Western Australian side was unable to claim a 10th win that would elevate them into the final top six.
Head Coach Michael Foley said he was proud of what his side has achieved this season. “While we’re disappointed with that performance tonight, it’s pretty hard for any one performance to be the defining factor in the season,” he said. “When you look at a season’s work, there’s a fair bit that goes into it and it would be fairly narrow to look at any one game to decide whether it was a great season or a bad one.
“I think the guys have been outstanding this season. They’ve won more games than any other Force team in the club’s history. To win last week and have the chance to make the final this week was our second goal and we fell short to a team that played very well.
“As much as we’re disappointed now – and I’ll speak from my own . They’ve taken a massive step towards things they could aspire to in the future. Flyhalf Matt Toomua kick-started the Brumbies’ scoring when he dived over for his first of three tries for the evening after six minutes, with Christian Lealiifano extending the lead to 8-0 with a 14th-minute penalty.
Force fullback Jayden Hayward clawed back the margin to 8-6 with two penalty goals in quick succession before Toomua’s second and a five-pointer to Jesse Mogg helped the home side to a 21-6 half-time lead.
The second half developed into a points shootout with seven tries scored in total. ACT winger Henry Speight crossed for the first of the new stanza four minutes in, before Force prop Pek Cowan powered his way over the line for the Western Australian side’s first try after 54 minutes.
The Brumbies extended their lead to 35-13 when Toomua dotted down for this hat-trick two minutes later, with the Force returning serve when Chris Tuatara-Morrison slammed the ball down in the corner following a ricocheting Dane Haylett-Petty chip kick.
The Force responded to Joe Tomane’s runaway try with a five-pointer to Zack Holmes, after Alby Mathewson fired a cut-out pass the way of the playmaker to allow him to dive over in the corner. Replacement forward Tom McVerry was the benefactor of a rolling maul near the Force line to help round out the scoring two minutes from time, with Force lock Sam Wykes denied a final say on full-time when referee Steve Walsh judged the second rower to be held up over the line.
The result brings to an end the Force season that also featured the most consecutive wins in the club’s history (five); the most home wins in club history (six); and the most consecutive home wins in club history (five).