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'Triple threat' Donaldson leads Force to massive win over Drua to keep Super Rugby finals hopes alive

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11th May, 2024
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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.

Fly-half Ben Donaldson scored 23 points on the back of a perfect kicking display and capped off with the final try of the night in the 77th minute. The match was watched in front of new Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt, who spent the week with the Force.

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.

Watch every match of Super Rugby Pacific ad-free, live & on demand on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport

“Outcome aside, that was our best performance of the year by the boys,” Force coach Simon Cron said. 

“We played some great rugby, both sides of the ball. I thought the players really stepped up.

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“Donaldson’s kicking was outstanding but also his running game and passing game – he’s a triple threat.”

The hosts led from the first minute, with Chase Tiatia touching down for a try after just 54 seconds.

Back-rower Carlo Tizzano then extended the lead, before 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 half-time behind by two converted tries, before 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 scoring.

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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 rue another blown chance to break their horrible record on the road.

The Drua struggled to match the Force in the physical battle, while their slow start came off the back of letting the Brumbies score two quick tries last week during their loss in Canberra.

“We’ve made it hard for ourselves now”, Drua hooker 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.”

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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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