Western Force continued their late-season charge up the table with a thumping 55-14 bonus-point Super 14 win over the hapless Lions at Subiaco Oval on Friday night.
The AAP reports that even the confirmation of winger Drew Mitchell’s departure to the Waratahs couldn’t dampen the spirit of the Force, who ran in eight tries to post their biggest even win and highest score, eclipsing the 45 posted against the Cheetahs in 2007.
Fit-again winger Cameron Shepherd scored a brace while Mitchell, Matt Giteau, James O’Connor and replacement prop AJ Whalley also got in on the act on a night where the sublime Force dominated every facet of the match.
The Force were also awarded two penalty tries.
The win lifts the Force to within one point of the top four, although that gap will widen by the completion of round 11.
To compound the Lions’ woes, last week’s hat-trick hero Henno Mentz was forced off late in the first half with an ankle injury, while the Force will monitor Sam Wykes after the lock injured his troublesome shoulder.
A sickening headclash between Force team-mates Gareth Hardy and Richard Stanford after the final siren stopped the game for several minutes but the pair managed to walk off.
The Force now embark on a testing two-game trip to South Africa, where they will take on the Bulls and Stormers before rounding out the season at home against the Highlanders.
It took just 58 seconds for the Force to start the demolition, with Mitchell breaking through the Lions’ brittle defence to notch the opening try of the night.
Giteau found a gap in between prop Lawrence Sephaka and flanker Ernst Joubert to cross over in the 19th minute, and things went from bad to worse for the Lions when skipper Joubert was handed a yellow card for taking down a try-bound Scott Staniforth.
The penalty try and Giteau’s conversion made it 21-0 in the 25th minute but the visitors hit back three minutes before half-time when fullback Earl Rose slipped through a napping Force defence and released winger Jannie Boshoff for an easy five-pointer.
But the Force posted their four-try bonus point on the stroke of half-time, with Cameron Shepherd crossing over courtesy of breaking runs from Giteau and Wykes to give the home side a commanding 29-7 lead.
The Lions were reduced to 14 men for the second time in the match when substitute back Shandre Frolick failed to roll away from the breakdown and two minutes later Shepherd capitalised with his sixth try of the season following a neat weave from No.8 Tamaiti Horua.
Shepherd was denied a hat-trick in the 58th minute by television match official George Ayoub but it mattered little, with a mesmerising interplay between O’Connor, Mitchell and Shepherd sending O’Connor over in the 62nd minute.
A try to AJ Whalley and another penalty try — against Todd Clever for bringing down O’Connor — capped off the perfect night, with Rose’s try in the 71st minute nothing more than a consolation as the Lions vented their frustrations late in the contest.
WESTERN FORCE 55 (1 penalty try) (Cameron Shepherd 2, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, James O’Connor, AJ Whalley tries Giteau 6 cons pen)
LIONS 14 (Jannie Boshoff, Earl Rose tries Andre Pretorius 2 cons)Tweet