'The club was on its knees': Force's big scalp a reward for outgoing head coach
The outgoing Western Force coach and three of their retiring former Test players got their perfect Super Rugby Pacific home send-off, but were ultimately left hoping for a big favour from one of their Australian rivals.
The 27-22 win over the Hurricanes at HBF Park on Saturday lifted the Force one place into eighth spot.
However, the ninth-placed Highlanders will regain eighth if they win, draw or take a losing bonus point from Sunday’s away game against Melbourne Rebels, who will finish 10th irrespective of the outcome.
Saturday’s gutsy and stirring win after they trailed 17-6 just before halftime kept the Force’s finals hopes alive.
They finished with a 4-10 record and back-to-back wins for the first time this season, having lost all six of their previous home games.
Centre Kahui was forced off the field with a head knock in the fifth minute and didn’t return.
“It was a very emotional week and emotional build-up,” Force captain and halfback Ian Prior told Stan Sport after his 100th appearance for the team.
“Sammo (Sampson) took this club over (when) it was on its knees and put it back up on its feet, so real credit to him there.
“Obviously the retiring guys, hopefully they get another week, the guys that are moving on.
“We haven’t done what we wanted to do in our home games but we put it together today and that was a really gutsy performance, three games in eight days with travel.”
When the Force were cut from Super Rugby in 2017, the Rebels secured the services of the West Australian team’s coach Dave Wessels and a number of their former players.
Now they will be hoping the Rebels can deny the Highlanders any points.
“We’ll be cheering for them tomorrow watching the game and then preparing (for a quarter-final) or having a couple more beers, so go the Rebels,” Prior said.
The eighth-placed team will be away to the ladder-leading Blues in the quarter finals.
The Hurricanes, who finished fifth, were clearly the Force’s biggest scalp of the season.
All of their other wins on the road were achieved against the teams who ultimately finished in the last three spots on the ladder.
Knocks to Kahui and substitute Jack Winchester could be the major fitness concerns for the Force should they advance to the quarter-finals.
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