The Western Force ended their Super Rugby pre-season with a 34-26 victory over the Asia Pacific Dragons at McGillivray Oval on Saturday.
The Force’s victory was in no small way helped by a try double from former Reds wing Luke Morahan.
In dry conditions, the Western Force came out in emphatic fashion in the first half, outscoring the invitational side 24-5 before half time, and then holding on through three second-half Dragon’s tries to walk away victors.
Luke Morohan was able to cross the line twice for the Force, with the 25-year-old winger putting on a strong attacking display in front of the home crowd.
In addition to Morohan’s double, Angus Cottrell, Matt Hodgson, Dane Haylett-Petty and Solomoni (Junior) Rasolea all added five-pointers of their own to secure the Force’s second pre-season victory in as many games.
Western Force head coach Michael Foley said while there were positive aspects in his side’s display, there are still fundamental areas requiring improvement before round one.
“In that game today you could see some of the positives, the way we used the ball at times was good,” he said.
“Early on today our maul got penalized, and then we adapted but in the end we didn’t get the payout of that, so we’ve got a bit of work to do there.
“In defence we had a lot of control of the game early, and then I thought when we had to defend we didn’t work hard enough in simple terms.
“We certainly kept the ball in hand for large periods and then when the space was on behind we knocked the ball in behind, I think Jono Lance did a very good job there, but we can definitely play a little bit faster than what we played in that first half.”
Looking ahead to their round one clash with the Melbourne Rebels, Foley said there would be an increased focus on their defensive game.
“There’s got to be a focus on what we’re doing, and I think critically for me it’s being able to invest a lot of energy in the defence and getting the ball back quickly, so that we can actually attack with it,” he said.
“Then when we attack with the ball make sure we maintain that good focus we had on going forward and keeping the tempo of the game up, I think we can definitely work on a couple of those areas.”
In what was an impressive opening-half performance, the Force got on the board early with Angus Cottrell powering his way over the top of a breakdown, after a series of successful phases put his side in a strong attacking position.
The floodgates soon opened for the West-Australian side, producing their best attacking foray of the match when skipper Matt Hodgson scored off the back of a maul with the help of his forward pack, followed by Luke Morohan who scored his first of the day when he broke a tackle in his own half, creating space for him to cruise over for the home sides third try.
Jono Lance converted the kick on both majors, putting the score at 19-0.
Soon after, the Force’s backline were again rewarded for their dominance when an Alby Mathewson pass into the right hand corner allowed Dane Haylett-Petty to dive over and add on another five points. Lance’s missed conversion attempt put the Force at 24-0, their biggest deficit of the contest.
The Dragons ended the half with their first try of the day, working their way through the Force’s 22 allowing Hadleigh May to cross over and narrow the score to 24-5 going into half time.
The home side opened up the second half scoring, after Ammon Matuauto pushed a grubber kick cross field to kind Luke Morohan who crossed for his second of the day. 29-5.
With the Force looking certain to close the game out strongly, the Dragons looked for one last surge with a try coming from thunderous second rower Ben Nee-Nee, followed by another try from Roy Kinikinilau in the corner to narrow the gap down to 29-19 after one out of two successful conversions.
Junior Rasolea closed out the scoring for the Force, collecting a pass from Peter Grant in the corner, followed by an emphatic dive to place the ball across the line and put the score at 34-19.
The game closed out with an intercepted pass turning into a try when Cardiff Vaega picked the ball out of the air, easily strolling over the line to end the game 34-26 in favour of the Force.
1. Pek Cowan , 2. Nathan Charles , 3. Guy Millar , 4. Steve Mafi , 5. Adam Coleman , 6. Brynard Stander , 7. Matt Hodgson (C) , 8. Angus Cottrell , 9. Alby Mathewson , 10. Jono Lance , 11. Albert Nikoro , 12. Kyle Godwin , 13. Marcel Brache , 14. Luke Morahan , 15. Dane Haylett-Petty
Replacments : 16. Heath Tessmann , 17. Chris Heiberg , 18. Jermaine Ainsley , 19. Ross Haylett-Petty , 20. Chris Alcock , 21. Richard Hardwick , 22. Kane Koteka , 23. Ian Prior , 24. Peter Grant , 25. Solomoni Rasolea , 26. Ammon Matuauto , 27. Semisi Masirewa , 28. Maalonga Konelio , 29. Rory Walton