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Ladder-leading Western Force smash Canberra in National Rugby Championship

Big names fall heavily as a star-studded Canberra Vikings discovered, dumped 45-28 by Western Force in the National Rugby Championship clash at UWA Sports Park.

The ladder-leading Force faced their toughest test of the season against a Vikings side top heavy with five Wallabies and another 11 Super Rugby players.

But they were not impressed by names on paper and some of the Vikings big ones went missing, overshadowed by their Force counterparts.

The Force pack had the upper hand for most of the game, especially in the scrum, while their defensive line speed and tackling had the visitors stuttering.

The Force picked up a bonus point and the score could have been greater but for two disallowed tries in two minutes after the break.

The Force scored seven tries. Winger Jonah Placid grabbed two with one each to centre Byron Ralston, second-rower Jeremy Thrush, No.8 Brynard Stander, winger Leon Feke and reserve hooker Feleti Kaitu’ui.

Captain Ian Prior converted five while the visitors scored four converted tries.

The Force took a narrow 19-14 lead into the break but coach Tim Sampson said it was the most polished win since he took charge.

“It was a really, really pleasing victory,” he said.

“We had the confidence that we were going to break them down at half time.

“A bonus point win against a team with five Wallabies, if you break it down individually, we matched up in most areas.

“The scrum was brilliant. They had said they wanted to go at us there and thought if they did they would be OK but we got the points.”

The Vikings had opportunities to make line breaks but the Force defence shut them down and scrambled well.

The Force halves pairing of Prior and Andrew Deegan took control of the game, maintaining their policy of playing the ball from deep with multiple phases, ball in hand and only kicking when necessary.

Flanker Henry Stowers carried well in the centre helping to open chinks in the Vikings defence to produce space out wide for wingers Placid and Feke.

But the Force were dealt a big blow when experienced flanker Chris Alcock was helped from the field with a knee injury after just 15 minutes.

Centre Ralston, who scored a hat-trick from the wing last week, opened the scoring after just four minutes with an intercept on half way. Prior converted.

Patient and structured pressure from a line-out saw the Force forwards rumble to the line.

They were held up on a couple of occasions before Thrush took advantage of a huge hole left by defenders being caught at the ruck. Prior converted.

Vikings winger Andy Muirhead turned on the after burners to score the visitors first five-pointer, Noah Lolesio coverted.

The Force stretched their lead when full-back Jake Strachan spotted space in the back field and his chip was collected by speedster Placid.

But the Vikings hit back before the break with hooker Lachlan Lonergan on the end of a clinical rolling maul. Lolesio converted.

The referee’s arm went up when No.8 Stander crashed over from a rolling maul but the Vikings would not go away and centre Len Ikitau kept them in the contest, Lolesio converted.

However they fumbled the re-start and the ball went straight to Placid for his second with Prior adding the extras.

Second row Blake Enever went over, Lolesia converting, to keep the scores tight but Feke in his first start cashed over. Prior converted.

Kaitu’u topped off the score with the Force’s seventh try and Prior added the final points of the day.

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