Force back in play-off race after Pasifika rout
The Western Force have kept their Super Rugby Pacific play-off hopes alive after snapping their losing streak with a key 48-28 win over Moana Pasifika.
Playing their postponed Round 10 match on Tuesday in Auckland, the Force ran in seven tries to also collect a vital bonus point.
That came in the 78th minute when Kyle Godwin ran on to a break by star wing Manasa Mataele to touch down to the delight of his teammates.
The result meant the men from Perth have moved into ninth position on the ladder, three points behind the Highlanders with the top eight playing in the play-offs.
With five points on offer – four for a win and a bonus point for scoring three or more tries than the opposition – they now need to beat the fifth-placed Hurricanes on Saturday at home in Perth and rely on 10th-placed Rebels downing the Highlanders in Melbourne on Sunday.
Skipper Ian Prior said it was a huge ask to back up after a heavy loss to the Chiefs – their seventh in succession – and travel to New Zealand.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks with a couple of big scorecards, but I’m immensely proud of the group,” the veteran halfback told Stan Sport.
“We’ve talked about responding from a short turnaround as well.
“It’s going to be really special to get home back in front of our home crowd and give ourselves the best chance possible to try and stick in the play-off there.”
The Force set up the win on the back of a dominant set piece and some steely defence to shut down their athletic opponents, while showing some endeavour in attack.
Moana Pasifika led 14-5 early thanks to two tries by wing Tima Fainga’anuku.
But they lost centre Levi Aumua to a yellow card for an ugly lifting tackle on Richard Kahui.
Force fullback Jake McIntyre scored the first of his two tries three minutes later to swing momentum his team’s way.
Centre Byron Ralston then crossed right on halftime, with Ian Prior adding the extras to secure a 19-14 buffer.
The Force extended that lead to 20 points through Toni Pulu, McIntyre’s second and Jackson Pugh and it looked like they had the bonus point in their keeping.
But Moana Pasifika kept them on their toes with a 69th-minute try to Tau Koloamatangi.
That set up a thrilling finish with the Force needing to cross again to get the extra point, with Godwin coming up trumps.
For the Western Force
Tries: Ready, McIntyre 2, Ralston, Pulu, Pugh, Godwin
Cons: Prior 4, McDonald
For Moana Pasifika:
Tries: Fainga’anuku 2, Lindenmuth, Koloamatangi
Cons: McClutchie 4
MOANA PASIFIKA: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Tima Fainga’anuku, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Neria Foma’i, 10 Lincoln McClutchie, 9 Ereatara Enari, 8 Jack Lam, 7 Alamanda Motuga, 6 Sione Tu’ipulotu, 5 Mahroni Ngakuru, 4 Veikoso Poloniati, 3 Chris Apoua, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Ezekiel Lindenmuth.
Replacements: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Tau Koloamatangi, 18 Joe ‘Apikotoa, 19 Alex McRobbie, 20 Penitoa Finau, 21 Manu Paea, 22 Fine Inisi, 23 William Havili.
WESTERN FORCE: 15 Jake McIntyre, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Byron Ralston, 12 Richard Kahui, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Reesjan Pasitoa, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Jackson Pugh, 7 Tim Anstee, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Ryan McCauley, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Bo Abra, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Jack Winchester, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Kyle Godwin, 23 Brad Lace.
Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Brendon Pickerill