O’Connor costs Force victory

GARETH DUNCAN writes James O’Connor missed two easy penalties and a try opportunity as the Force and Brumbies drew 13-13 in Perth.

The Wallabies youngster can be forgiven for his injury-time missed attempt as his kick fell short from 55m out. But he pulled two easy goal kicks and dropped the ball over the try line earlier in the second half, which would’ve been the defining scores. It looked like he made amends with a three-pointer in the 71st minute, but Matt Giteau levelled matters two minutes thereafter with a 45m penalty.

This should’ve been a Force triumph as the Brumbies delivered another poor performance in one of their worst campaigns in Super Rugby. The visitors started off brightly, but they imploded after the first quarter. The Force had the upper hand late in the first half and continued to hold ascendancy in the second half. They enjoyed 78% of possession after the restart but a lack of composure and handling errors cost them.

The Brumbies looked impressive from the outset with the flyhalf-inside centre axis of Giteau and Christian Lealiifano creating chances for the outside backs. They found reward early as Lealiifano crafted a Pat McCabe break and his offload put Henry Speight through for a 4th-minute try. Giteau added the extras.

The Force built some momentum through their forwards as the half progressed and hit back through Sam Wykes, who found space out wide. The Brumbies were run off their feet as the Force gained ascendancy. The hosts’ back row was influential during this period as they contested well at the breakdown and carried the ball up strongly, but the team struggled to turn their opportunities into points because handling errors and lack of composure.

Despite a stronger first-half showing from the Force, James O’Connor could only trade penalties with Giteau for a 10-10 deadlock at half-time.

The Force continued their superiority in the second half, but couldn’t capitalise. The Brumbies were starved for possession and their poor discipline set the platform for the home team to go ahead. But the men form Canberra survived, thanks to the usually reliable O’Connor buckling under pressure.

The draw will be celebrated as win for the Brumbies as they should have never been in the position to return home with any log points, while the Force will be frustrated and disappointed with this result.