Super Rugby trial: Force blow Canes over in Gosford

There is no need to panic for Hurricanes fans in 2016 but there might be a glimmer of hope for the Force this season after they won their Super Rugby trial 28-0 in Gosford on Wednesday night.

Wooden-spooners in 2015 with only three wins, the Force scored early and then managed to kick clear finishing with four tries despite having two players in the sin bin at one stage against a Hurricanes outfit missing eight All Blacks (Beauden Barrett, James Broadhurst, Dan Coles, Cory Jane, Nehe Milner-Skudder, TJ Perenara, Julian Savea and Victor Vito) The number is nine if you count Ardie Savea who is on Sevens duty and won’t be around for last year’s beaten grand finalists this season.

The Force, the nominal ‘home’ team in the encounter, were missing players of their own including Wallabies Matt Hodgson, Ben McClaman, Luke Morahan, and Ben Tapuai plus former All Black Alby Matthewson however they did have the experienced Pek Cowan and key recruit in the form of ex-Springbok Peter Grant.

The Force dominated the early play against last year’s regular season premiers and when Adam Coleman crashed over it looked like Michael Foley’s side might score six or seven tries but Chris Boyd’s team tightened up their defence and got some more possession.

The first quarter (with four 20-minute periods played in trial games) was punctuated by the inevitable period of two to three minutes resetting a scrum and then a further break when, in golfing parlance, the divots had to be replaced from where the scrum was at the southern end of Central Coast Stadium.

For a fleeting moment there was a murmur among the 3,500 or so fans that the game might have been called off on account of a dodgy pitch. But aside from the sandy surface which didn’t look good aesthetically it was “okay”. Or so Force centre Marcel Brache told me afterwards.

Leading 7-0 coach Foley would have been looking for his side to push clear but wouldn’t have wanted the start to the second half that he got when second rower Steve Mafi and then Kane Koteka, nephew of two-cap All Black Paul Koteka, were sin-binned in quick succession. Mafi had a bad few minutes as he trudged off the field following his sanction via the in-goal area he attempted to grab a water bottle from the trainer’s drinks carrier but swung and missed. Two strikes and he was off the plastic chair.

Not long after flanker Koteka was carded by referee Angus Gardner the Force got fortuitous when a Hurricanes line-out from near their own line went awry. Reserve hooker Tessman swooped at the back of the line-out to get a glancing hand on the ball for a try just before the three quarter break for a 14-0 lead.

This would have been annoying for Hurricanes’ coach Chris Boyd as the visitors had good periods of sustained possession deep in the Force half. Like WA they eschewed all penalty goals but in truth if the Force took their early penalty attempts they could have been 16-0 up before Wellington got a sniff.

After Semisi Masirewa stepped his way over whilst Koteka was still off the ground, making the Hurricanes defence on their left look decidedly average, the game was over at 21-0.

The fixture was capped when Jono Lance was the provider for Anmon Matuauto to score in the final quarter. Lance booted the conversion onto the Central Coast Highway at the southern end of the stadium and the crowd cheered. Good times.

In summary:

Nothing major to worry about for Wellington. With almost a full team to come back last season’s mark of 14 wins may be tough to match again but their early handy draw with only one game outside of New Zealand in their first six and their first three home games against the Force, new South African side the Kings and the expansion Jaguares they should be near the top of the New Zealand conference from the off.

For the Force, with the addition of the Jaguares, Kings and Sunwolves this season, the probably won’t run last overall again. How Hodgson, McClaman and co come back and how Grant links with Matthewson at the outside backs will be crucial. However it will still be hard for them in the Australian conference.


There was early concern that Canes fullback Jason Woodward wouldn’t go on after he was down for some time following a heavy tackle from Force fullback Dane Haylett-Petty but he played on.

Late in the game Force try-scorer Masiwera was layed out on the pitch after copping a blow to the face during a ruck but he walked up to the subs bench and may just be on light duties to start the week.

Four better, four worse:

Better: Straight off the bat second row Adam Coleman got involved with some tidy runs and scored inside four minutes.

Worse: Wellington wasted a host of chances in open play with poor calling. Support runners twice veered the wrong way and the pass went just behind in the other direction. Reserve halfback Frae Wilson created some options at times also in those breaks but could do better.

Better: Hurricanes skipper on the night Brad Shields performed well firing his team up on the line when they held the Force scoreless for about 30 minutes at one stage.

Worse: Vaea Fifita had a serious case of the dropsies losing two balls at one stage in quick succession.

Better: Marcel Brache, the LA-born centre, had a great chip and chase in the first half and could be an improver for the WA side in 2016.

Worse: After some early wobbles the line-out of substitute hooker Tessman improved, and they had some nice short variations.

Better: Chris Alcock was good for the Force (playing a key role in the lead-up to two tries) and the former Waratah is now very much a senior player at the club about to enter his fourth year in the West so he must play well for them to do well.

Worse: Ian Prior, the Force halfback on the night, started badly when his first pass nearly went over Grant’s head at first receiver. Delivery overall could have been crisper.


Next: The force play the Asia Pacific Dragons in Perth before opening their season at home against the Rebels whilst the Canes and play in Canberra on the opening Friday night of the 2016 competition.


This wrap first appeared on From the sideline of sport

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his 'spare time' (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

Leave a Comment