Five things we learnt from Force-Highlanders

Sun, Mar 19, 2023, 5:08 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Gareth Simpson was a shining light for the Force in the defeat. Photo: Getty Images
Gareth Simpson was a shining light for the Force in the defeat. Photo: Getty Images

The Western Force will feel like that was the one that got away after falling away against the Highlanders.

They found themselves in the lead with 30 minutes to go, only for a lack of discipline and execution to let them down.

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It sets up a difficult fortnight with road clashes against the Blues and Hurricanes on the horizon.

So what did we learn?

1.Hidden gem

Simon Cron's black book continues to deliver stars to the Force.

Scrumhalf Gareth Simpson was an unknown prospect heading into the match but showed his class as he guided the visitors around the park.

His chip kick to countryman Zach Kibirige was perfect, giving them the lead just before the half. He then hit Bryce Hegarty with a bullet pass to keep them in the contest.

The one-two combo of Simpson-Fines Lelewaisa will prove dangerous for opposition teams

Hooker Tom Horton stepped up with Folau Fainga'a tweaking his Achilles whilst Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco was damaging with every carry.

2. A front-rowers dreams

A 50-22 from the replacement hooker was the deciding play of this game. Yes you read that right.

With the game in the balance, Rhys Marshall's deft left-footed kick helped flip momentum as the Force went on the attack.

30 seconds later, Jonah Lowe had his second in the corner and the hosts had an 11-point lead.

From here, you could see the body language of the visitors drop as the impressive Sam Gilbert put Hugh Renton in for the game-sealer.

For a team that entered the match winless, the piece of magic from one of the unlikeliest sources could be just what sparks their season.

3. Fine line

Highlanders flyhalf Mitch Hunt will consider himself very lucky to get away with just a yellow card after a deliberate knock-down stopped a certain try.

Kuenzle's break down the short side set up a three-on-one overlap, with the presence of fullback Sam Gilbert convincing Angus Mabey to leave it at just a penalty.

"This could not be any clearer if you ask me...I agree with the yellow card but I don't agree with the fact that there was enough cover...All that means is that Pulu, even if he was tackled by (Highlanders fullback Sam) Gilbert, all he had to do was pop a pass," All Black great Justin Marshall said on Stan Sport's coverage and it's tough to argue against him

To rub salt into the wounds, Hunt returned and made up for his mistake with a try after the siren to give the hosts a first-half lead.

4. Leading the way

Thomas Umaga-Jensen continues to shine for the Highlanders.

He bullied the Force all day with his damaging runs, setting up Lowe's opener with a great break when they hadn't sniffed the visitors' 22 in the opening period.

The centre finished with four offloads, four tackle busts to go with a game-high 15 carries.

5. Valuable points slip

Western Force coach Simon Cron was admittedly frustrated after the game as the visitors let the bonus point slip away.

Two late tries to Siosifa Amone and Ollie Callan looked to have snatched a point, only for Bayley Kuenzle's kickable conversion to fade away to the left.

The Force understands better than most the value of these points, missing the finals last year to the Highlanders on for and against.