Western Force keep Super Rugby finals hopes alive
Western Force are daring to dream of Super Rugby Pacific finals, keeping their hopes alive with a bonus point 34-14 win over the Fijian Drua at HBF Park.
The victory maintained the Force's unbeaten home record of four wins from four, and Friday's bonus point was crucial as they jumped the Drua and moved into the top eight.
The Force scrum was bolstered by the return from injury of Wallabies Tom Robertson and Folau Fainga'a, with the latter grabbing two tries.
Max Burey, in just his second Super game, straightened the Force attack well and centre Sam Spink was bruising in midfield.
The Force's carries through the middle were effective and they concentrated most of their wide attack on the left with right winger Zach Kibirige struggling with a dead leg and a cork to the quad.
Coach Simon Cron went into the game with just two backs on the bench for the first time this season and would have been reluctant to make an early switch.
His problems deepened when he lost left winger Manasa Mataele after 54 minutes with an eye injury and there is also concern over second-rower Ryan McCauley who went off in the second half with a shoulder problem.
Cron said moving the Drua around had been a focus in the build-up.
"The boys played some good attacking shapes that made (the Drua) tackle," he said.
"Defensively we had some plans on how they were going to own us and the boys executed in that area."
Drua coach Mick Byrne said his side "learned a valuable lesson around not getting ready to play".
"Maybe coming off a big win last week (27-24 over the Hurricanes), thinking we were just going to turn up and it was going to happen," he said.
"It was obvious we weren't ready."
The Force took an early lead when the ball was moved quickly to Mataele who went over in the corner.
They went further ahead when hooker Fainga'a ran a good line to crash over for his third try of the season, converted by Burey.
After a slow start, the Drua clawed back, piling pressure on the Force defence as Eroni Sau found a hole to stroll through. His try was converted by Frank Lomani.
The momentum swung further in the Drua's favour and they pummeled the Force line, edging ahead on the half hour with a converted try by Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta.
Burey restored the home side's lead with a penalty after the siren.
The Drua were pointless after the break as the Force got off to a dream second-half start, second-rower Jeremy Williams driving over from the back of a maul.
Fainga'a added his second from a rolling maul, Burey converted both, and homegrown flanker Carlo Tizzano added the fifth with his first Super try for the Force.