Western Force coach John Mitchell couldn’t be more proud of his team’s effort to beat the Crusaders for the first time on Friday and he hopes it gives the whole group plenty of belief going forward.
Rugby 365 reports that Mitchell is now looking forward to finishing the season in South Africa against the Lions, Cheetahs and Sharks, and is confident the Force will take momentum with them to play strongly.
“The next three weeks are extremely important for us in terms of taking momentum into next year. If we can utilise the next three weeks and get consistent performance it will allow us to take momentum into next year,” Mitchell said.
Despite trailing 13-nil at halftime, Mitchell felt confident that his team was sufficiently testing the then top-of-the-table Crusaders to fight back given the possession and territory they were able to get.
What they did with the ball improved greatly in the second half as Ben Whittaker, Pek Cowan and Matt Hodgson scored memorable tries and the Force played their best half of rugby for the season to outscore the Crusaders 24-3 to beat the seven-time champions for the first time ever.
The Force have drawn twice with the Crusaders over the first four meetings in the Super 14 competition, so they had gone close and Mitchell was delighted to now have the scalp of every team.
He knows that for the experienced players it will be special, but he hopes the young players take belief from it not only go and do well in South Africa over the next three weeks to finish the season, but also into 2011.
“It’s the scalp we’ve been after since we’ve started and the guys were terrific. Even at 13-0 down we still thought we were capable of getting that win, but they were a lot more patient than us in the first half. We were a bit frenetic with our attack, but we dug deep and in the second half it was a very tough effort,” Mitchell said.
“We want to create a winning culture and we’ve always been after this scalp, and always had fantastic fixtures against the Crusaders. Our style of play, while it’s quite different in some ways, we are both very ambitious in the way we play and it’s an important step for us.
“It’s a very special moment for experienced guys like Nathan [Sharpe] to beat the Crusaders and it’s important that the young guys who are going to carry our club forward reflect on it and gain a lot of belief from what they’ve done.”
All season long the Force forwards, led by Sharpe along with Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman, and now the returned Richard Brown and David Pocock have carried a huge workload and Mitchell was delighted to see things work out for them on Friday.
The first try came to Whittaker after a good set of phases with strong breakdown work. The second came to Cowan from a lineout drive and then the third after an incredible run by Nathan Charles that ended with Hodgson scoring the try.
“The forwards have whacked away pretty hard all season and at times in this game when we got down in that attacking 22 we physically asked questions of them and the boys got some conversion out of it,” he said.
“It was a special run by a hooker and the one that Matt Hodgson made to support Cameron Shepherd from the end goals was too. He was going good and beat Bowden and another Crusaders player for pace, and he broke out of one tackle while looking like he was carrying a carton on his shoulder. He hung in there to offload to Shep and then after Hodgo got over being disappointed that Shep blew past him, he never gave in and got there for the try.”
Skipper Nathan Sharpe said the team believed it could win its remaining three games of the regular season.
“We are going over with high hopes,” he said. “They’re not finals hopes but they’re hopes to win all three games.”Tweet