The Western Force have kept their finals hopes alive after snapping a seven-game losing streak in a 48-28 win over Moana Pasifika in Auckland.
In doing so, the Force claimed their first win in New Zealand since 2014, while also earning the crucial bonus point to keep things tight in the race to make the top eight.
With one round of fixtures to go, the Force must defeat the Hurricanes at home in Australia on Sunday, also needing the Melbourne Rebels to beat the Highlanders later that day to squeeze into the eight.
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With the win, the Force move up to ninth on the Super Rugby Pacific table.
The Force started off with an early try to Andrew Ready on the back of a maul, then life for the Western Australians was made particularly tough for a short period.
Moments after Ready’s try, Pasifika’s wrecking ball winger Tima Fainga’anuku broke his way through three defenders to race away for a try under the sticks.
Fainga’anuku then scored again, but in the corner to lead his side to a nine-point advantage.
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A yellow card in the 27th minute to Levi Aumua for a dangerous tackle opened the gates for the Force, who finished out the first half with back-to-back tries to reclaim the lead.
The margin quickly ballooned out when tries to Byron Ralston, Toni Pulu and Jake McIntrye put the visitors in the perfect position to secure competition points.
But as the match inched closer to full-time, two late tries to Moana Pasifika put the Force out of bonus point range before a Kyle Godwin try in the shadows of full-time put them back in it.
« No secret it’s been a tough couple of weeks there with a couple of big scorecards [against us], » said Force skipper Ian Prior after the game.
« I’m really proud of the group. We talked about resilience and responding with a short turnaround as well… I’m immensely proud of the guys. »
Both teams were forced into a short turnaround, with Tuesday’s game being a make-up clash for a previous match postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
The defeat for Moana Pasifika means they will finish the season at the bottom of the table.
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