The Western Force have fallen to a narrow 22-20 pre-season trial defeat to the ACT Brumbies, with Max Burey unable to convert an after-the-siren conversion attempt for the draw at Revo Fitness Stadium on Saturday.
The Force trailed 22-15 when the siren sounded before new recruit Henry O’Donnell crossed on the right to present the opportunity to Burey, who put his shot narrowly wide to the right.
It was tight throughout, with neither side ever leading by more than a converted try. Scores were 10-10 at half-time before both sides traded unconverted tries. Brumbies right winger Andy Muirhead dotted for the go-ahead try in the final 10 minutes before O’Donnell’s late effort.
Across the game, Ben Donaldson, Ronan Leahy and O’Donnell all scored tries for the Force, who had won their opening pre-season trial 21-19 over the Queensland Reds.
The Brumbies' game was the Force’s final pre-season hit-out prior to the club’s Super Rugby Pacific opener against the Hurricanes at HBF Park on Friday 23 February.
Early on, the Force resolutely withstood several Brumbies’ thrusts inside their 22m but eventually the visitors found a way with Len Ikitau dotting down the left edge.
The home side responded immediately with Donaldson’s eighth-minute penalty goal on the 22m to make it 5-3.
In the 20th minute, the Force went ahead via Donaldson after housemate Will Harris’ line break which was initiated by lock Tom Franklin’s deft offload. Donaldson completed the routine conversion for a 10-5 lead.
Donaldson’s kicking game was a major feature for the first half, while George Poolman came close on a 24th-minute fast break but was chase down by Corey Toole inside the 22m.
ACT squared up the game on the stroke of half-time with the speedy Toole crossing down the left flank again. Lolesio’s conversion attempt missed to the right for a 10-10 half-time score.
The Force defence came under heavy pressure as Issak Fines-Leleiwasa made a try-saving tackle from a Brumbies’ burst down the right in the 46th minute, while Carlo Tizzano showcased his physicality in the last line on the hour too.
The defence eventually was breached, with Billy Pollard touching down as the Brumbies mauled their way over. Declan Meredith missed the conversion to keep it 15-10 with 18 minutes to play.
However, the Force found a reply immediately, with Burey spreading play wide to the left edge where Academy winger Leahy managed to cross for his second try in two pre-season games. It remained 15-15 as Burey’s conversion attempt went wide setting up an exciting finale.
But ACT were the team to get the go-ahead try with Toole at the heart of it again, putting through a deft kick for Andy Muirhead to score, with Declan Meredith converting for a 22-15 lead.
The siren sounded before Burey burst down the left, with Reesjan Pasitoa making a line-break. Play switched down the right edge, with Leahy offloading to O’Donnell to scramble home to score. Burey, however, was unable to take the chance to level the scores.
Tries: Donaldson (20’), Leahy (66’), O’Donnell (80’)
Conversions: Donaldson 1/1, Burey 0/2
Penalties: Donaldson 1/1 (9’)
Tries: Ikitau (5’), Toole (39’), Pollard (62’), Muirhead (71’)
Conversions: Lolesio 0/2, Meredith 1/2