The Western Force have extended their unbeaten run to three with a 38-19 victory over the Rising to leave the winless Melbourne based outfit anchored at the bottom of the NRC ladder.
After last week’s away victory in Fiji, the Force returned home full of confidence and were largely untroubled in overcoming an error-ridden Rising to jump four points clear at the top of the NRC competition table.
Under clear skies at the University of WA, the locals got the better of the much bigger and more fancied Rebels-dominated forward pack and by halftime had jumped clear 19-7.
Elusive winger Byron Ralston proved untouchable, racing in three tries for the Force inside the opening half hour, the final two after sustained pick and drive pressure close to the Rising line.
Chris Alcock and Brynard Stander led the way upfront for the Force, while Richard Hardwick and Ross Haylett-Petty stood out for the Rising pack on an afternoon that halves Theo Strang and Rodney Iona would like to forget.
Ralston scored his first after just three minutes, but halfback Ian Prior couldn’t add the extras in his first run-on start in 12 weeks after a long injury layoff.
Melbourne found themselves in front 7-5 in the 11th minute when Force fullback Jake Strachan failed to handle a tricky Semisi Tupou grubber and Iona backed up to cross adjacent to the posts.
Anaru Rangi’s solid ruck play was overshadowed by several costly line-out throws and the Rising hooker’s wayward effort minutes after Iona’s try let the Force off the hook and their surge upfield finished with Ralston scoring his second try.
Ralston capped an explosive first half with two crucial plays from both sides of the ball, firstly wining his side possession with a crunching tackle in the 31st minute and then cutting back against the grain with a big step to score a minute later for a 19-7 lead.
Not to be outdone, Stander put on a show of his own inspiring several pick and drives as the Force threatened the line upon resumption and after two penalties the Force forwards steadied again and rumbled across for Stander to score.
Melbourne’s window of opportunity came five minutes after halftime when winger Lolohea Loco sliced through the Force midfield, with Force flyhalf Andrew Deegan handed a yellow card for an offside penalty as his side scrambled to get back.
The Rising seized the advantage when Hardwick burrowed over from a quick tap to trail 26-14.
A 40m bust off the restart by nuggety replacement hooker Tetera Faulkner threatened to turn the contest but once again the Melbourne backline grassed the opportunity and the Force quickly rebounded with a try of their own to replacement hooker Andrew Ready, and at 33-14 the game was out of Melbourne’s reach.
The day finished with each side trading tries, with the last to Force forward Johan Bardoul the best of the day - a sizzling 90m team effort initiated by Leon Feke and Issak Fines.
Western Force 38
Tries: Ralston 3, Stander, Ready, Bardoul
Cons: Prior 4
Yellow card: Deegan 45’
Melbourne Rising 19
Tries: Iona, Hardwick, Fa’amausili
Cons: So’oialo 2