Force shocks Crusaders with 23-all draw - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Force shocks Crusaders with 23-all draw

By Tim Clarke 22/04/2006 12:34:29 AM Comments (0)

In an epic encounter, the Western Force come within centimetres of pulling off one of the greatest sporting upsets on any continent in recent years, drawing with the previously invincible Crusaders 23-23 at a spellbound Subiaco Oval.

On an almost perfect day for the club - with Matt Giteau rumoured, but not confirmed, to have signed a multi-million dollar deal to move west next year - the Super 14 form book was turned on its head in a seesaw battle.

Only a contentious decision from Australian TV official Geoff Acton, who ruled out Haig Sare's try with seconds left, denied the Force a win to dumbfound the rugby world.

In an incredible start, the Force took the lead within minutes through a Cameron Shepherd try, conceded a Mose Tuiali'i reply immediately afterwards, and then extended their advantage with a second touchdown from Brock James.

Leading 20-8 and with the unthinkable suddenly likely, the Force were pegged back by tries to Leon McDonald and Rico Gear to tie the game.

As they have all season, the Force persevered and thought Sare had won it at the death, only to be denied by a line call.

The encounter had been touted as more mismatch than match-up, with the Force $15 outsiders on their home turf.

But after twenty minutes, the Super 14 ladder had been turned on its head.

After an intelligent Force touchfinder, a Crusaders knock on under midfield pressure presented the Force with a turnover.

Matt Henjak fed Scott Staniforth, and the centre's long pass missed its intended target but bounced perfectly for Shepherd to bound over.

Clearly stung, the Crusaders and Dan Carter immediately responded, their own pressure forcing Shepherd to mishandle, allowing Richie McCaw to feed back row partner Tuiali'i to pile over.

The helter skelter start continued unabated, when Staniforth's beautiful inside pass found James, whose first touch was to dab the ball down.

With a sense of disbelief spreading around Subiaco, penalties were exchanged until Shepherd's kick on the stroke of half time was rewarded by a standing ovation.

After Shepherd narrowly missed a kick to put the Force 15 points clear, the Crusaders tackles began to rattle.

Camped in the Force 22, referee Marius Jonker took one unsuccessful appeal to Acton, but the Crusaders could only come away with three points from 18 minutes of toil.

Shepherd restored the 12 point advantage - but the referee then made another crucial decision, sin binning prop Gareth Hardy for repeated infringements as the champions hammered the Force line.

Down a man, the numerical advantage paid immediate dividends, when Leon McDonald broke through, and then a pinpoint chip through the Force defence saw Gear outpace Digby Ioane to touchdown, and allowed Carter to level.

But as the Crusaders threw the ball with abandon, it was Sare, fed after Shepherd's trickery, who thought he had secured the win, until Acton decided he had slid into touch.

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