The Western Force produced the best 30 minutes of their Super 15 history to stun the Melbourne Rebels in their clash in Perth yesterday.
The Force scored the first 32 points of the match to blow the Rebels away and went on to open their account for this year with an upset 32-7 win.
The Force went within seconds of holding their opponents scoreless for the first time ever, only for the Rebels to score their lone try as the final hooter sounded.
Force captain Matt Hodgson said the Force were determined to show they were better than their two losses this season suggested.
“The way we came out showed people how we do play football,” he said. “The way we controlled the game, our defense was back to where it was last year and that is what won us the game.”
Not surprisingly, Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham said the game was lost early.
“They caught us napping in the first half,” he said. “We did well in the second half, but it was not good enough.”
The Rebels were coming off an emphatic 35-14 win over the Cheetahs last weekend, while the Force were easily beaten 27-14 by the ACT Brumbies.
The Force did not score until the dying minutes against the Brumbies, but ran in the last two tries of the match and lived up to their promise with a stunning start against the Rebels, who made five changes to their starting 15.
The underdogs regained possession from the initial kickoff and their first attacking move saw Alby Mathewson dart through a big hole in the Rebels’ defense to score the game’s opening try in the second minute.
They then got the first of several fortuitous first-half bounces in the 10th minute, allowing Luke Morahan to regather a chip-kick after a lineout and cross out wide, as the lead went out to 14-0 on the back of Sias Ebersohn’s second conversion.
Ebersohn added penalties in the 17th and 22nd minutes, with his team totally dominating possession.
In the 24th minute, another favorable bounce from a chip-kick enabled Hodgson to soccer the ball past the defense, and then gather and cross for his team’s third try in his 100th Super Rugby match.
Up 27-0 after the Ebersohn conversion, the Force again capitalized on an unpredictable bounce in the 27th minute, with Nick Cummins able to regain possession after another kick and set up Angus Cottrell for the bonus-point try.
Nothing was going right for the Rebels, who appeared to have scored their opening try just seconds before halftime, but were denied by the video referee and trudged off 32-0 down at the break.