Force snatch win over Chiefs



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The Western Force upset the Waikato Chiefs with the last play of the game to snatch a 22-21 win in their Super 14 clash on Saturday night.

A Stephen Donald drop goal in the 76th minute had appeared to secure a crucial come-from-behind win for the Chiefs, only for Matt Giteau’s accurate penalty to snatch a win that had looked the Force’s for much of the night until a late surge by the visitors.

It was a potentially costly loss for the Chiefs, who were looking to strengthen their grip on a finals berth but slipped to 7-4, while the Force are 6-5 and have only a slim chance of reaching the playoffs.

The Force, with just one win in their previous four games and without a try in their previous two outings, made a lively start and dominated the first half.

Their first try came from nowhere, with Matt Hodgson charging down a Jamie Nutbrown kick and catching the rebound to cross for an easy score in the corner in the fourth minute to end the drought, Giteau’s excellent conversion giving his side a perfect start.

If alarm bells were ringing for a side with a lot at stake, the Chiefs found themselves in deeper trouble in the 11th minute, when Drew Mitchell bustled across for his second try of the season despite the attention of four Chiefs.

Giteau again proved deadly with a tough conversion to hand his side a 14-3 lead they held until half-time, the Chiefs’ only score a penalty to Donald in the ninth minute.

In a dramatic finish, the Force’s Cameron Shepherd appeared to cross for the winning try with 10 seconds to go, only for the video referee to rule a knock-on.

However, referee Marius Jonker was playing advantage and the ball went back to Giteau to take the match-deciding kick from a tricky angle after the final hooter.

Giteau was up to the challenge and it never looked likely to miss.

Force captain Nathan Sharpe thought his side had blown it when Shepherd’s try was disallowed.

“What a game — unbelievable,” he said.

“I didn’t know we had a penalty. I was disappointed for the boys we didn’t get a try.

“That is the sort of kick you want Matt Giteau kicking.” Chiefs captain Mils Muliana conceded the better side claimed the victory.

“You have to give credit to the Force — they deserved to win in the end,” he said.

“We played a lot in our own half and we had a few opportunities we let slip.”

Down 19-8 late in the game against a spirited Force, the Chiefs had made a miraculous comeback to grab the lead through Donald in the 76th minute, reviving hopes of their sixth win in a row.

Stephen Donald, who missed two easy penalties in the first half, scored under the posts in the 65th minute as his side climbed back to 19-15, before he finally found his range with a 70th-minute penalty to set up the pulsating finish.

The Chiefs squandered a number of chances to score the try that would put them in front, each time turning the ball over with the line beckoning and once even getting the ball over the line but unable to ground it.

Complicating their push for the finals further is the fact they finish their season with two away games in South Africa.

Sapa-AFP –

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