It was another first-round duck for the Western Force in last night's 30-23 Super 15 loss to the Rebels at AAMI Park.
Stand-in captain Pek Cowan said before the season opener his forwards needed to dominate the first quarter if the Force were to record a maiden first-round victory.
They did that.
New coach Michael Foley predicted the match would be decided in the last 20 minutes. He was right - but not for the reasons he wanted.
The Force were reduced to 13 men when flanker Chris Alcock and scrum-half Alby Mathewson were sent to the sin bin. From that situation there was no coming back.
The Force should have racked up more than the 11 unanswered points they scored in the first 20 minutes, given the amount of pressure they applied and the territory they won.
It would have given them a lot more breathing space later in the game when they needed it.
Foley had promised a new style of rugby after last season's drudgery, and for periods that's what his side produced.
Despite last night's loss, it was refreshing to see better continuity and more phases put together, with play slightly wider of the ruck and with swift service from scrum-half Mathewson.
Fly-half Sam Christie slotted comfortably into the often troublesome playmaker spot and showed he had the talent for reading the game at this level - something for which the Force have been crying out.
Next to him, young centre Kyle Godwin was outstanding, hitting the line and off-loading to put teammates into space.
"For the first 20 minutes, we controlled the game and we were building phases and accumulating pressure," Foley said.
"But we let the pressure off a couple of times with turnovers.
"We fought back well to score a try with 13 men on the field, but it was not enough in the end."
In his first game against his former side, James O'Connor scored 15 points for the Rebels.
Two penalties from Godwin and a try from Alfie Mafi set up the lead, but as the half drew to a close the home side bounced back with a Ged Robinson try that O'Connor converted before he added a penalty.
Rebels second-rower Hugh Pyle put his side ahead soon after the break with a try converted by O'Connor.
Mafi grabbed his first career double a couple of minutes later, unconverted, before O'Connor added his second penalty and then converted a Richard Kingi try.
With 10 minutes remaining Force flanker Richard Brown gave his side hope, crashing over from close in, before O'Connor stepped up to seal the game with his third pen- alty."We fought back well to score a try with 13 men on the field, but it was not enough in the end.""Force coach *Michael Foley *
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