The visiting Australian Super 14 outfit the Western Force turned in a vastly improved performance to defeat the fancied Sharks side 26-0 in the second Neo Africa Tri-Series match at Newlands on Tuesday evening.
The Force ran up a 19-0 lead after just 29 minutes of play with three unanswered tries, two of which were converted by former Lions flyhalf Andre Pretorius to take a commanding 19-0 lead at the break.
The Sharks took the initiative at the outset but their early efforts were spoilt because the ball carrier was often isolated and a few of their speculative passes went astray.
The Aussie visitors on the other hand were committed to defence with solid first-time tackling and once they saw off the opposition’s opening flurry they gradually imposed themselves on the match.
The Sharks did not do their cause any good by trying the run the way out of trouble while their poorly upfield kicks gave the Western Force ample counter-attacking options.
Prop Sam Sykes opened the scoring with a try at the corner flag in the seventh minute and 13 minutes later centre Ryan Cross burst past some sloppy defensive work to score next to the posts.
The visitor’s flyhalf Andre Pretorius converted the second try to secure his side a 12-0 lead.
The Force were fielding a far stronger combination than the one, which were thrashed by the Stormers at the same venue last Saturday and they looked a far more composed unit on the field although the Sharks had started out with a number of first-choices on the reserves’ bench.
Pretorius was a central figure in the Force build-up sorties and he had a hand in the side’s third try ahead of the break. Pretorius added the conversion from the touchline (19-0).
After the break the Sharks side showed 11 changes with many of their ‘big guns’ being thrown into the fray.
They were unable to make their presence felt at once but once they got into the swing of things the Force never managed to break out of their half of the field.
But the Sharks also could not find their way past the Force’s stubborn defence and 20 minutes into the second half the men from Durban had nothing to show for their efforts, despite the one-sided play after the break.
Thrice during this passage of time the Sharks were halted less than a metre from Force’s tryline.
Their failure to make a breakthrough seemed to have a disruptive effect and as play wound towards the close they looked more-and-more disjointed.
This simplified matters for the Force who were able to transfer play up to the Sharks’ 22-metre area, and just when it looked like they would fail to add to their first-half tally, fullback-back James O’Connor streaked past the Sharks defence for his side’s solitary second-half try.
He added the conversion to round off his side’s 26-0 triumph.
Scorers: Western Force: Tries; Sam Wykes, Ryan Cross, Cameron Shepherd and James O’Connor. Conversions; Andre .Pretorius (2) and O’Connor.