The Western Force has succumbed to a 15-53 loss to the Crusaders at HBF Park in the Super Rugby Pacific First Nations Round encounter.
Jake Strachan fired the Force into an early lead after five minutes, with a straightforward penalty goal.
The Crusaders responded swiftly, with winger Leicester Fainga’anuku crashing his way over in the 11th minute to give the Canterbury-based side a two-point lead (3-5).
The Force regained the lead in the 15th minute, as Kyle Godwin’s well-weighted grubber kick was pounced upon superbly by full-back Strachan (8-5).
Fainga’anuku scored his second and third try of the night (27’, 39’) as the Crusaders took control with a 10 point lead at half time (10-18).
Within two minutes of the second half, Force lock Fergus Lee-Warner crashed his way over for a try. Strachan converted to reduce the deficit to just three points.
The Force continued to enjoy territory and heap pressure on the Crusaders, but their defence proved resolute.
The visitors hit back sharply and clinically by racing out to a 39-15 lead with tries to Pablo Matera (45’) and two to Will Jordan (49’, 58’). Fly-half Richie Mo’unga converted all three to give the Crusaders a 24 point lead at the hour mark.
Jordan completed a hat-trick in the 68th minute, while George Bell scored a try from a rolling maul in the final moment of the game. Both tries were converted by Mo’unga to give the Crusaders a 15-53 win.
The Force will now switch focus to a New Zealand tour, as they take on the Highlanders (13 May) and Chiefs (21 May) in the next two rounds.
Western Force: Tries: Jake Strachan (15'), Fergus Lee-Warner (42'). Conversion: Strachan. Penalty Goal: Strachan.
Crusaders: Tries: Leicester Fainga'anuku (11', 27', 39), Pablo Matera (45'), Will Jordan (49', 58', 68'), George Bell (80'). Conversions: Richie Mo'unga (5). Penalty Goal: Mo'unga.
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