SIMON BORCHARDT reports on the Force’s 45-19 win against the Reds in Perth.
Has there been a worse Super Rugby title defence than the Reds in 2012? Having blown a 17-0 lead against the Sharks and then conceded 61 points against the Bulls, the Queenslanders slumped to an embarrassing defeat to the Force that may have already ended their play-off hopes at this early stage of the season.
The injury-wracked Reds were bullied up front by the Force, their backs offered little on attack and their defence was poor, to be polite.
The Force, who came off the back of a win against the Waratahs and a narrow loss to the Rebels, did the basics well and took their chances.
They had 85% possession in the first quarter and led 14-0 after three penalties from fullback David Harvey and a try by flyhalf James Stannard.
The latter’s game was cut short when he suffered an ankle injury, but that didn’t disrupt the hosts, who struck again on the half-hour mark when scrumhalf Brett Sheehan broke away from a scrum and veteran lock Nathan Sharpe barged over to make it 21-0.
The Reds finished the half strongly, though, turning down two shots at goal in favour of attacking scrums. That positive approach paid off when tighthead prop James Slipper scored an unconverted try in the left-hand corner three minutes into added time.
But all that good work was undone early in the second half when Reds flyhalf Dallan Murphy’s grubber was charged down by Sheehan on the halfway line. The Force No 9 collected the ball and sent replacement flyhalf Ben Seymour away for a seven-pointer.
The Reds responded with a converted try by second rower Van Humphries that was the result of a turnover won by opensider Liam Gill, but they never looked like getting back into the game.
Harvey slotted another penalty and winger Samu Wara scored the hosts’ bonus-point try with 10 minutes to go when he collected Seymour’s well-placed grubber kick.
Force No 8 Matt Hodgson then finished off a long-range attack and while Reds winger Dom Shipperley scored in the last move of the game, it was scant consolation for his shattered side.