The Force scored eight tries in totally outplaying the Lions 55-14 in Perth.
The hosts were on top form and recorded their biggest ever win in Super Rugby, but they were aided by a disappointing Lions outfit.
The Force raced to a 24-0 lead after half an hour as the visitors’ bodies were at Subiaco Oval but their minds and hearts were back in Jo’burg. Some of the defence was putrid and you must question the pride, or lack thereof, that some of the players have.
It also showed how inconsistent the Lions are, as they’re never able to produce a couple of decent performances on the bounce. Their supposed set-piece strength was also unapparent as the scrum and lineout faltered.
From the first whistle the Lions inexplicably didn’t challenge for the kick-off, the Force reclaimed possession and sent fullback Drew Mitchell over for a try after 57 seconds.
This movement showed the difference in individual skill between the sides as 18-year-old James O’Connor fed a great pass to Ryan Cross, who in turn flung a floating inside ball to Mitchell.
The Lions had a similar chance early on, but their control of the ball in contact was terrible. They did use their forward runners well as the Force didn’t enjoy the physical approach of having to tackle bigger men, but whenever they went wide the structured Force defence was too organised.
Conversely, the Lions were brittle out wide. The second Force try came as a result of Cross being allowed to offload in the tackle again, which put his team on the front foot. Matt Giteau didn’t need a second invite as he eased through a gaping hole to score under the posts.
The visitors’ desperation showed in the Force’s third try. Once more the outside channels were the avenue of attack for the hosts and when Scott Staniforth put in a kick, Ernst Joubert reverted to a blatant late tackle. The outcome was a penalty try, while to add further insult the captain was sent to the bin for the cynical offence.
The Lions didn’t have much possession but when they did it was scary to watch. Their breakdown cleanout was woeful, while with 14 men they surprisingly attempted to play a loose game but somehow managed to get away without further points scored against them when Joubert was off.
While the Force were exhibiting all their class, the skill level of the Lions was at times embarrassing as they repeatedly lost the ball in contact.
Jannie Boshoff did manage to score upon Joubert’s return after a direct first phase move off a scrum, but they then gifted the Force their bonus point before half-time. A poor kick was lapped up by Mitchell and Giteau broke down the touchline to send Cameron Shepherd over.
Trailing by 25 points, the Lions were again their own worst enemies in the second stanza. For the second week running a second player was yellow carded as sub Shandre Frolick infringed at the ruck.
Again a man down, the Lions opted to run from their own 22. This move typified how poor they were as reserve scrumhalf Chris Jonck’s pass hit his own player on the head, the Force regained possession and Shepherd claimed his second.
Sub AJ Whalley barged over and another piece of indiscipline handed the hosts yet another penalty try as they went over the half century mark for the first time in their history.
What will compound woes for the Lions could be the leg injury to Henno Mentz, who hobbled off in the first half. They will now limp back into South Africa to face the Crusaders with the aim of helping the Sharks and Bulls in their bid for the play-offs.
The return of Jaque Fourie and hopefully Baywatch Grobbelaar may aid them, but a more comprehensive all-round showing is necessary if they are to topple the champs.
By Grant Ball