Donaldson masterclass sees Force crush Drua to roar back into finals contention


The Western Force have reinstated HBF Park as an imposing venue for visiting sides, running in six tries on the way to a 48-10 bonus-point win over the Fijian Drua.

The win was the second-biggest ever at home by the Western Australian franchise, falling just short of their 55-14 victory over the Lions in 2009, and is their eighth win in the past eleven matches at home.

Flyhalf Ben Donaldson has scored 23 points on the back of a perfect kicking display, and with Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt watching in the stands, capped off the performance with the final try of the night in the 77th minute.

The Force entered Saturday night’s Super Rugby Pacific match at HBF Park in last place, with a loss effectively ending their finals hopes. But spurred on by a star showing from former Wallaby Kurtley Beale, Hamish Stewart and Donaldson, the Force romped to their third win of the season, lifting them to ninth of the ladder and just two points outside finals contention.

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The hosts led from the first minute, with Chase Tiatia touching down for a try after just 54 seconds. Additional tries to Carlo Tizzano and a penalty goal to Donaldson saw the Force out to a 17-0 lead in the first 20 minutes.

The Drua responded with a penalty goal to go into halftime behind by two converted tries, and winger Selestino Ravutaumada produced an acrobatic dive in the corner in the 45th minute to reduce the margin to seven points. 

A yellow card to Nic White in the 51st minute heaped further pressure on the Force, and the Fijians almost had another try a minute later – only for winger Taniela Rakuro to fumble the dribbling ball.

It proved to be a significant moment in the match, with the Force flying home to score four tries in the final half hour, with Michael Wells, Lopeti Faifua, Bayley Kuenzle and Donaldson the recipients.

The match was also significant for the return of Harry Hoopert, who played his first Super Rugby match in 708 days.

Fiji Drua Coach Mick Byrne will be ruing the performance of the Drua, with the visitors struggling to win the physical battle and stay in the contest for most of the match, duplicating similar problems last week against Brumbies letting the opposition get out to an early lead.

“We’ve made it hard for ourselves now”, Tevita Ikanivere admitted post-match.

“We have to work our arses off now to stay in the top eight… we have to look ourselves in the mirror, and ask the question if we still want it or not.

“The scoreboard speaks for itself.”

The loss also sees the Drua clinging onto their finals position, and despite two of their final three weeks at home, will come up against sides bouncing back in form in the Queensland Reds and the Highlanders, before facing the Melbourne Rebels in Round 15.

The Force will also enjoy two of their last three games at home, staying in Perth next week to take on the struggling Waratahs, before games against the Reds (away) and Brumbies (home) to round out the season.

with AAP

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