True test to come for battered Force - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

True test to come for battered Force

By Justin Chadwick 21/02/2009 12:43:02 PM Comments (0)

With a season-defining three-game road trip on the horizon, the Western Force will carefully monitor the fitness of several key players after the club's bruising 16-10 Super 14 win over the Cheetahs on Friday night.

Centre James O'Connor and prop Gareth Hardy limped off during the hard-fought win, while Ryan Cross copped a heavy knock to the head and skipper Nathan Sharpe received on-field treatment for a neck complaint.

Cross and Sharpe played out the match but O'Connor and Hardy will have their leg injuries assessed during the week.

"There's a bit of ice down there," Force coach John Mitchell said.

"We won't know for another 24, 48 hours where the boys are at."

Fullback Cameron Shepherd (leg soreness) is expected to return next week while Scott Staniforth, who came off the bench to play the final 12 minutes against the Cheetahs, is set for more game time against the Brumbies after making a successful return from knee surgery.

The Force dropped their season-opener against the Blues but got the job done against the Cheetahs courtesy of O'Connor's first-half try and 11 points to Matt Giteau.

But the Force face a far tougher test over the next three weeks, with away games against the Brumbies, Chiefs and Crusaders.

"We've got our first win at home now, and it's an eight-day turnaround against the Brumbies and the guys will all be ready to go," Sharpe said.

After losing concentration against the Blues in round one, the Force put in a solid 80-minute effort against the Cheetahs and Sharpe said the signs were good.

"We put them under immense pressure tonight (Friday) and we knew that we'd done a lot of work early on and that was going to pay off at the back end," he said.

"They had a fair bit of field position in that second half and we resisted them well.

"The game's not all about one moment, it's about how you get to that moment and I thought the guys created plenty of opportunities and that augurs well for the rest of the season."

However, Sharpe admitted there was still a bit of work to be done on the discipline side on things after the Force were repeatedly penalised for infringements at the breakdown and line-out.

"It feels like we're not doing ourselves any favour with penalties," Sharpe said.

"It feels like we are getting a lot of free kicks against us, so it's something we will look at during the week.

"But what it does say is that we've got the right attitude and we are contesting possession when it's on the ground and at the set piece, so that's a good sign for us."

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