The Western Force have fired a warning shot to the rest of the NRC competition with a crushing 38-15 victory against the Fijian Drua in Suva.
Force winger Jonah Placid crossed for the opening two tries of the match and could easily have scored four by halftime had several final passes found their mark. A well-deserved hat-trick came in the 77th minute when the powerhouse carried three defenders across the line for the final try of the match.
After conceding seven tries in their round one victory, the Force made five changes to their starting forward pack. Samoan Test forward Henry Stowers made a welcome return and alongside Tevin Ferris dominated in the steamy conditions forcing the Drua big men into repeated errors.
Halves Issak Fines and skipper Andrew Deegan capitalised on the extra space and orchestrated four first-half tries for a 26-10 halftime lead before the Drua edged to within 11-points on the hour.
In an ominous message to the rest of the competition, the Force defended their goal line for most of the final quarter and were rewarded when Jake Strachan and Placid crossed for the final two tries.
Coming off an opening round draw with Brisbane City, the Drua were back on home soil where they were unbeaten last season but immediately found themselves on the back foot in the seventh minute when Deegan put Placid over untouched down the left edge.
Placid crossed again shortly after when Fines found space down the short side to open a 12-0 lead.
The home side hit back through Seru Vularika when the half darted through some flimsy goal line defence and the Drua attacked from the restart only to ignore a golden chance to take the lead when captain Eremasi Radrodro chose to take a penalty goal.
Peceli Nacebe edged the Drua within two points but the momentum was taken out of their sails when Stowers scored after the Force regained the kick-off. Deegan added the extras for a 19-10 advantage.
Replacement Strachan threatened all day after covering for fullback Jack McGregor who hobbled off in the 11th minute and his pin-point pass to Kiti Ratu saw the winger cross for final try of the opening half.
A spectacular runaway try from Drua winger Levani Kurumudu minutes after halftime looked to have turned the tables as the locals closed the gap to 26-15 and with composed ball control, the Fijian speedsters began to revel in the extra space. But the Force held firm and the flow of points never came.
The Force’s tenacious defence was rewarded when Strachan stepped off his left close to the line to score, his try ending the Drua’s late rally and putting the game beyond doubt at 31-15 before Placid scored his third in the final ten minutes.
The unbeaten Force take on Melbourne Rising next week while the Drua look to open their account against NSW Country.
Western Force 38
Tries: Placid 3, Ferris, Ralston, Strachan
Cons: Deegan 3, Prior
Fijian Drua 15
Tries: Vularika, Kurumudu