It was an 82-minute defensive grind that saw the Force get their second win of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season as Bryce Hegarty nails a penalty after the siren to give the Force a three-point win at HBF Park.
The match got off to a cracking start with Moana taking the first try of the game, however the Force quickly responded through Hegarty’s boot to start the game with a 3-7 score line within the first five minutes.
After conceding the first try the Force got their tails up and defended the ball well, reacting to the short kicking game shown by Moana Pasifika.
Young gun Felix Kalapu continued his run of form to start the match showing moments of brilliance on both ends of the ball.
Backed down in their own half for majority of the first 40 minutes, the Force’s line held strong. Ollie Callan and Folau Fainga’a were disruptive at the ruck shutting the door on any opportunities for Moana.
On what was their first real attacking phase of the game, the Force pounced and secured a number of penalties leading to a yellow card bringing Moana Pasifika down to 14 men.
Folau Fainga’a was the first to cross the line for the Force, scoring off the back of fantastic structure off the line-out, continuing to secure points from the rolling maul to start the season.
Heading into the sheds, the Western Force forwards were the talking point of the first half, dominating at ruck time through the leadership of skipper Jeremy Thrush.
The Force built on their defensive clinic during the second half holding Moana’s relentless attacks off well, however discipline continued to be an issue allowing the opposition to keep possession of the ball.
The match built up to an exciting finish as the men in blue continued to pressure Moana with only a margin of five points with 20 minutes to play.
The slow grind from the Force finally paid off through a piece of flawlessly executed play in their own 22, sending George Poolman over in the corner to tie up the score at 18 all.
Another back-and-forth battle occurred with the game building to a blockbuster finish; two high tackles saw the Force go down to 13 men with five minutes to play.
In a crucial moment, it was reserve halfback Issak Fines-Leleiwasa who gave the Force a lifeline giving them possession through a strong pilfer with two minutes to play.
Bryce Hegarty had the chance to become the game's hero with a kick from 42 minutes out to seal it, unfortunately just sliding it to the left.
However, Tim Anstee charged down the goal-line dropout to give the Western Force a scrum five metres out from the try line after the final siren.
In a final nail-biting passage of play, the Force secured a penalty at scrum time to give Hegarty a second chance to take the win and send the Sea of Blue home in elation with a 21-18 point win.
Scores Western Force 21 Tries: Folau Fainga’a, George Poolman Conversions: Bryce Hegarty Penalties: Bryce Hegarty 3
Moana Pasifika 18 Tries: Fine Inisi, Samiuela Moli Conversion: Lincoln McClutchie Penalties: Lincoln McClutchie 2