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Moana Pasifika's record-tying win extends Western Force's winless start

By AAP
Moana Pasifika celebrate scoring the try. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The Western Force’s finals hopes are already dangling by a thread after they slumped to a 22-14 Super Rugby Pacific loss to Moana Pasifika at HBF Park.

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The Force were made to pay for their ill discipline yet again, losing the penalty count 9-2 in the first half of Friday night’s match in Perth.

The loss leaves the Force nursing a 0-4 record, and facing a mountain to climb to make the top-eight.

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The injury-hit Force are already eight points adrift of eighth-placed Moana, and they face the in-form Queensland Reds next week.

The Force were left to rue a series of missed opportunities.

No.8 Will Harris appeared set to score in the ninth minute after nice build-up play from flyhalf Ben Donaldson.

But instead of charging to the line, Harris dished off a somewhat wayward pass to Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, who dropped the ball while running at full pace.

Two minutes later, Donaldson unleashed a clearly-forward pass to snuff out another golden chance for the Force.

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“Interestingly, in the first few minutes I think we started really well,” Force coach Simon Cron said.

“We created a couple of really good opportunities, but then we didn’t get into shape at all when we were attacking.

“We complicated the simple.

“And I think I learned some new rules tonight too. There were some interesting calls (from the referees) … a couple caught me by surprise.”

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Moana hooker Sama Malolo opened the scoring in the 17th minute when he barged over for a try.

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But the Force produced some party tricks to get a try of their own four minutes later.

Winger Chase Tiatia launched a chip kick as soon as he received the ball on the wing, and outside centre Bayley Kuenzle sprinted forward to collect the bouncing ball and race over.

Flanker Carlo Tizzano was yellow carded in the 32nd minute for a dangerous tackle that resulted in a clash of heads with Moana fullback Danny Toala.

The visitors made the most of the numerical advantage, with former Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu barging over to give his team a 12-7 lead at half-time.

The deficit would have been even bigger had another former Wallaby – Christian Leali’ifano – not missed an easy penalty and conversion attempt.

Leali’ifano made up for those misses by playing a key role in Moana’s next try early in the second half.

The 36-year-old sneaked into place to grab a long line-out, and he dished off a quick pass for winger Kyren Taumoefolau to run 50m untouched to the line, making it 19-7.

The gap was closed back to five points in the 61st minute when Tizzano crossed from a rolling maul and Donaldson – after missing two easy penalties – nailed the conversion.

But the Force’s victory hopes were sunk in the 72nd minute when substitute flyhalf William Havili nailed a 53m penalty, giving the visitors an eight-point buffer.

The Western Force suffered a blow before kick-off when star Wallabies recruit Nic White was ruled out with knee swelling.

The result sees Moana equal their record for most wins in a season just four rounds in to the 2024 campaign.

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