The Western Force opened their account in the Super 14 with a 16-10 win over the Cheetahs in a drab affair at Subiaco Oval, Perth, on Friday.
Rugby 365 reports that on a day that produced few highlights and stop-star rugby was the order of the day, the Force will at least have the four points for the win to cheer them up.
And, as Cheetahs captain Juan Smith acknowledged afterwards, his team are still making the same mistakes that saw them lose so many close encounters last year.
The game never really got going, as both teams looked decidedly lethargic.
The one positive for the Cheetahs was that their set pieces looked solid, as they stole a couple of Force line-outs through their captain, Smith. However, the Force was far more effective at the breakdown – as the Cheetahs just didn’t get the numbers to the ruck to be effective.
The negatives far outweighed the positives in this game, certainly for the Cheetahs – with wing Danwel Demas looking out of his depth at Super 14 level. His high error rate ensured his team was constantly under pressure.
The Cheetahs’ discipline is also a major problem and the second successive week they had a player in the sin bin for repeated offences at the breakdown.
Add to that the fact that the Cheetahs missed 24 tackles and it is easy to see what an ordinary performance by the Force was still good enough to secure a win.
Matt Giteau opened the Force’s account with a penalty in the ninth minute, after having missed a shot at goal just three minutes earlier.
The Cheetahs’ response was swift, as a kick and chase turned into a line-out inside the Force 22. From there a couple of rushes saw hooker Adriaan Strauss go close, but the TMO ruled against him.
A couple of scrums later and prop Jacobus Roux went close from a charge, but again the TMO ruled against the Cheetahs and the Force had used up another ‘get out of jail free’ card.
The game then went into a lull, as neither team managed to stamp their authority on proceedings and both looked to play a territorial game.
The game meandered along for about 15 minutes, before the Force found a spark of life. From a couple of phases teenage sensation James O’Connor found a gap in the Cheetahs’ defensive line and sprinted over for the first try. Giteau added the conversion and after 32 minutes the lead was 10-0.
Again the Cheetahs responded swiftly, this time wing Danwel Demas making amends from some of his earlier lapses when he followed up a kick to collect and score his team’s first try. Centre Jacques-Louis Potgieter added the conversion to put the Cheetahs straight back into contention.
But a penalty just before the break – accompanied by a team warning to the Cheetahs for repeated offences – saw Giteau slot his second penalty kick at goal for a 13-7 half-time lead.
The second half saw that warning just before the break turn into an early yellow card against the Cheetahs, with prop Wian du Preez being sent to the sin bin in the 45th minute for repeated offences at the ruck.
And moments later Matt Giteau stretched his team’s lead to 16-7 with a neatly struck drop-goal.
And while Du Preez watched from the sin bin, the scrums were reduced to uncontested restarts.
The Cheetahs prop had hardly returned to the fray and the Cheetahs conceded another penalty at the breakdown – accompanied by another general warning – but Giteau’s shot at goal hit the upright and bounced back into play.
As the game moved into the final quarter the Cheetahs won a penalty just inside the Force half and Potgieter slotted the 45-metre effort to bring his team back to within a converted try at 10-16.
The Cheetahs launched a strong assault and a couple of raids were stopped just short of the line, as the final 10 minutes approached.
And then the Force had their opportunity to attack, as the momentum swung forth and back.
But the home team hung on in what was another forgettable Friday game.
Man of the match: It is hard to find a player who really stood out in this mire of mediocrity, but Western Force flyhalf Matt Giteau did enough to shade a bunch of other very ordinary performances.
For the Western Force:
Pens: Giteau 2
For the Cheetahs:
Yellow card: Wian du Preez (Cheetahs, 45 – repeated infringements at the ruck)Tweet