The Western Force’s hopes of reaching the Men’s U19 Super Rugby Championship Final have taken a hit following a 54-18 defeat to the ACT Brumbies at Revo Fitness Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Brumbies extended their winning streak to three games, running away with victory in the crunch clash with the visitors showing off their impressive attacking options, capitalising on any Force errors to score eight tries to three.
ACT had four tries inside the opening 23 minutes but the Force kept pressing, closing to 33-18 after Kauri Tipene-Grace’s try early in the second half. But the Brumbies flexed their muscle to all but seal their spot in the Final in a fortnight.
The Force, who will face the second-placed NSW Waratahs in the final round, slip to fourth on the table after the Queensland Reds rose up to third with a 45-8 win over the Melbourne Rebels earlier on Saturday. The Force must beat the Waratahs by 35 points or more and hope the Reds lose to the Brumbies next weekend to make the Final.
The home side did take an early lead from Finn Prass’ straight-forward penalty, but the visitors hit back emphatically in the seventh minute with flanker Lleyten Tautua charging off a lineout to score the game’s opening try.
Brumbies full-back Shane Wilcox’s burst earned territory from the Force restart, with Tautua again peeling off a drive following a lineout to score, with Cullen Gray converting for a 12-3 lead.
Force left winger Tiam Toufan went close to scoring in the 12th minute, only for a Wilcox tackle to deny him on the goalline.
But the Force scored soon after with Associates hooker Kelton New crossing after a perfectly executed lineout variation.
The Brumbies scored the fourth try of the game inside 20 minutes, with Angus Staniforth flying through the Force defence after Thomas Crofts’ kick, before scrum-half Daniel Nelson laid off for the imposing Drew Brndusic to cross.
ACT had their fourth try in the 23rd minute through Staniforth after second rower Lachlan Hooper claimed Nelson’s kick, with Gray’s conversion opening up a 26-8 lead.
Despite the margin, the Force got to work, dominating possession for the next period, with New held up by Tobias Macpherson in the 26th minute, before Ollie Cummins’ good work led to Manaia TeTana getting over.
Off the kick-off, the Force should’ve done better after scrum-half Doug Philipson’s line break, offloading to Prass whose delayed pass saw the move break down.
Brumbies hooker Boston Morete was yellow carded in the 35th minute but the visitors almost scored again with Gray breaking the line, offloading to Wilcox who found the speedy Staniforth on the right side, only for Toufan’s try-saving tackle to force a knock-on at the line.
Cummins fumbled a chance on the line, with Gray counter-attacking with speed down the left side, leading to Macpherson’s converted try in the 48th minute for a 33-13 lead.
The Force stayed in touch with Kauri Tipene-Grace’s 52nd minute try, finding plenty of space down the right side from Philipson’s offload from a scrum to make it 33-18.
But the Brumbies had all the answers, led by their forward pack enabling Samuel Sahyoun to cross, before another from Tino Tavana racing clear after picking off Tipene-Grace’s pass inside his own half.
Force reserve Aiden Voute came close, held up in the 63td minute, before Dane Sawers was yellow carded, while the tireless Luke Holt-Brown kept trying despite the deficit.
It was the Brumbies who got the final try of the match, with Wilcox dishing off for Staniforth who produced another burst of speed and athleticism to ground the ball over the line.
Tries: New (15’), TeTana (29’), Tipene-Grace (52’)
Conversions: Prass 0/3
Penalties: Prass 1/1
Tries: Tautua 2 (6’, 8’), Brndusic (17’), Staniforth 2 (23’, 76’), Macpherson (48’), Sahyoun (54’), Tavana (57’)
Conversions: Gray 6/7, McFarlane 1/1