Western Force keep Super Rugby Pacific quarterfinal hopes alive with bonus-point win over Moana Pasifika

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Nick TaylorThe West Australian
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Western Force are daring to dream after their 48-28 bonus-point win over Moana Pasifika in Auckland on Tuesday night.
Camera IconWestern Force are daring to dream after their 48-28 bonus-point win over Moana Pasifika in Auckland on Tuesday night. Credit: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Western Force are daring to dream of an unlikely Super Rugby Pacific finals appearance after their 48-28 bonus-point win over Moana Pasifika in Auckland on Tuesday night.

The result sent them into ninth spot, three points behind the Highlanders, heading into a must-win clash with the Hurricanes at HBF Park on Saturday.

They must then hope the Rebels send the Highlanders home from Melbourne on Sunday without a point.

The Force scored seven tries to Moana’s four but made getting the bonus point difficult for themselves.

Twice they were three tries ahead for the crucial point, twice they let it slip, before centre Kyle Godwin went over with two minutes remaining.

The Force were desperate for victory to end their three-game tour of New Zealand.

It came three days after they were crushed 54-21 by the Chiefs, their third big loss in a row after the 53-15 and 61-10 defeats by the Crusaders and Highlanders.

Coach Tim Sampson had demanded patience from his side to build a first-half platform before opening up for a bonus point.

It almost didn’t go to plan as they scrapped to a 19-14 lead at the break.

Match captain Ian Prior said it was the result they had been searching for.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 24: Andrew Ready of Western Force scores a try during the round 10 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Moana Pasifika and the Western Force at Mt Smart Stadium on May 24, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Camera IconAndrew Ready of Western Force scores a try during the round 10 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Moana Pasifika and the Western Force at Mt Smart Stadium on May 24, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. Credit: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

“It’s no secret it’s been a tough couple of weeks,” Prior said.

“We haven’t been happy with our performances.

“We talked about responding on a short turnaround.

“It was a really physical game, and I’m immensely proud of our guys for coming up today.”

The Force fly home on Wednesday before Saturday’s clash.

“About the only thing we can do now is recover,” Prior said.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 24: Fergus Lee-Warner of Western Force celebrates the win during the round 10 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Moana Pasifika and the Western Force at Mt Smart Stadium on May 24, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Camera Icon Fergus Lee-Warner of Western Force celebrates the win during the round 10 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Moana Pasifika and the Western Force at Mt Smart Stadium on May 24, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. Credit: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

“The fans have stuck with us through and through the last few years.

“We want to make our families and fans proud and give ourselves the best chance possible to try and sneak into the finals.”

The Force varied their backline attack and when they got it right their defence was excellent. When they go it wrong they left gaping holes for Moana runners to exploit.

When Force runners broke the line they were often isolated, leading to penalties and unforced errors.

The Force dominated the set-piece, particularly the line-out, to set up the win.

They scored three first-half tries from hooker Andrew Ready, full-back Jake McIntyre and centre Byron Ralston. Moana winger Tima Fainga’anuku grabbed a double.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 24:  Ian Prior, captain of Western Force (C) during the round 10 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Moana Pasifika and the Western Force at Mt Smart Stadium on May 24, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Camera IconIan Prior, captain of Western Force (C) during the round 10 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Moana Pasifika and the Western Force at Mt Smart Stadium on May 24, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. Credit: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Force winger Toni Pulu crossed in the corner after the break before Ezekiel Lindenmuth barrelled over for the home side.

Scrum-half Prior added to his four conversions with a penalty, McIntyre scored a second and local WA product Jackson Pugh scored his first Super try.

Again Moana hit back through Tau Koloamatangi before Godwin sealed the bonus point.

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