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Force recruit Ben Donaldson feeling ‘confident’ despite pre-season loss

By Finn Morton
Ben Donaldson - PA

The Western Force may have gone down swinging in last weekend’s pre-season trial against the ACT Brumbies but marquee recruit Ben Donaldson believes his team should feel “pretty confident” ahead of their season opener later this month.

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After beating the Queensland Reds at Brisbane’s Ballymore Stadium earlier this month, the Force looked to test themselves at home against “probably the top Australian side.”

The hosts showed plenty of fight at Perth’s Revo Fitness Stadium, and they even had a chance to seal a draw at the death, but the Brumbies snuck by with a 22-20 win.

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Henry O’Donnell scored a try after the full-time siren which gave Max Burey an opportunity to level the scores with a tough shot at goal. Unfortunately for Burey and the Force, the attempt was pushed wide.

“It was a good hit-out for the boys against probably the top Australian side,” Donaldson said after the match. “Very close game, bit disappointing we couldn’t build any phases, couldn’t build any pressure.

“It’s always tough when you can’t get past one or two phases. In saying that, pretty proud of the boys to stay that close against a good side like the Brumbies, but disappointing.

“I think our defence was really good today. Obviously letting in 22 points isn’t always nice but a lot of that game when we couldn’t hold the ball, our defence had to muscle up and I thought we did pretty well. Getting a few turnovers on the back of that relieved a bit of pressure.

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“Second game of the year, so we’re still building. Plenty of things to work on, but pretty confident going into round one.”

The Brumbies struck first as Wallabies centre Len Ikitau crossed for the opener down the left edge of the field, but the Force hit back shortly after.

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Donaldson, who started all four matches for the Wallabies during last year’s Rugby World Cup pool stage, scored his first try in Force colours in the 20th minute.

“First try in the new colours is always nice,” Donaldson added. “It was a tough game, very hot today. The boys were feeling it out there.

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“100 per cent very excited. It was my first game at home. It’s my first game at HBF Park against the Canes. Great turnout with the crowd today so hopefully they can replicate that for round one.”

Joining Donaldson on the Force’s try-scoring sheet was Ronan Leahy and O’Donnell. It was a close game throughout which sets the tone for a big Super Rugby Pacific season ahead.

The Western Force will open their 2024 campaign at home against the Wellington at HBF Park on February 23.

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Jon 2 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

> it was apparent Robertson was worried about his lack of experience at half-back, hence the decision to start veteran TJ Perenara and put Finlay Christie, the next most experienced number nine, on the bench. I don’t think it was this at all. It was a general scope he was putting over all the playerbase, he went with this cohesion factor in every position. > If the main priority is to build different tactical elements to the gameplan, then Ratima is the man in whom Robertson needs to trust and promote. This also I think is antagonist towards the reference game plans. The other plans do not need the speed of which Perenara (atleast) can’t provide, and I think personal is going to be the main point of difference between these games/opponents. That is the aspect of which I think most people will struggle to grasp, a horses for course selection policy over the typical ‘Top All Black 15’. That best 15 group of players is going to have to get broken down into categories. So it test one we saw Christie control the game to nullify the English threats out of existence and grind to a win. In test two we saw Ratima need to come on which dictated that this time they would run them off their feet with speed and the space did open up and the victory did come. Horses for courses. The same concepts are going to exist for every group, front row, lock and loose forward balance, midfield, and outside backs all can have positional changes that the players may be asked to accentualize on and develop. There might be some that _it_ will not ever click for, but they’ll hopefully still be getting to enjoy unbelievable comeback victories and late game shutouts to close it down. Knowing does not mean not enjoying.

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