Western Force fell 27-11 to reigning champions Brumbies in their opening clash of the Australian Super Rugby championship at HBF Park tonight.
The Brumbies were just too composed and too experienced for the Force.
They ran in three tries to a Force late five-pointer in their first home Super game in 1316 days since being controversially axed by Rugby Australia.
It will be of little consolation that they ran the Brumbies close for long phases of the game in front of 7514 Sea of Blue fans.
They quickly need to address needless penalties, handling errors and basic turnovers that will always be punished by a team like the Brumbies.
After an enterprising start the Force battled to find a way through a solid visitors defence, became untidy at times and put their playmakers under pressure.
Brumbies fly-half Noah Lolesio scored all his side’s first-half 13 points with two penalties and converted his own try. Force captain Ian Prior slotted two three-pointers.
The Force had good phases of control, re-cycled cleanly with speed at the breakdown but brought about their own undoing in the first half with 10 penalties that gave the Brumbies a free ride up field.
The Brumbies were patient, moving the ball to the edges.
When they went to their traditional strength early, the line-out rolling maul, the Force defended well and held their own in the scrum against an all-Wallabies Brumbies front row.
But they were rocked early after the break with a try from Irae Simone, converted by Lolesio.
The Brumbies began throwing numbers into the ruck slowing the Force supply of ball and looked dangerous in broken field play where the Force had to scramble hard.
The Force shifted up a gear when coach Tim Sampson added fresh legs in the halves with Argentinian Test star Tomas Cubelli and Jake McIntyre.
They needed to return to the basic game plan that brought its early rewards but again let themselves down with simple handling errors and disappointing turnovers.
Speedster and former Force scrum-half Isaak Fines-Leleiwasa burned the Force defence on the outside for the Brumbies third try, Lolesio converted, before Cubelli scored a consolation try three minutes from time.
Force coach Tim Sampson had to make two late switches after centre Kyle Godwin broke his ankle in Wednesday’s training session.
He was replaced by former All Blacks World Cup winner Richard Kahui who was originally named on the bench. Winger Brad Lacey went to the reserves.
Hooker Andrew Ready, whose partner is due to have a baby, was replaced on the bench by rookie Jack Winchester who signed from the Queensland Reds academy just a month ago.