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Former Wallaby Beale returns as Western Force leaves Crusaders at rock bottom

FORMER WALLABY KURTLEY Beale made a winning return to Super Rugby as the Western Force upset the Canterbury Crusaders 37-15 on Saturday to climb from the bottom of the table.

Two months after being cleared of sexual assault charges, veteran full-back Beale played his part as the Force inflicted further misery on the Crusaders, whose seventh defeat from eight games dropped them to last place.

It was Beale’s debut for Perth-based Force and his first Super Rugby match in four years.

The 35-year-old was banned from all rugby activities in 2023 – missing the chance to play in a fourth World Cup – after being arrested and charged over an alleged incident in the bathroom of a Sydney pub in January last year.

The 95-Test veteran’s impact since joining the Force on a short-term contract in March has been praised by captain Nic White.

“From the first training session to this match, his guidance was phenomenal,” said White, who added that his players never lost confidence despite their struggles.

“We have stayed true to how we want to play, what we believe in. We had a tough trot, but no panic attacks. It’s nice to get a little reward.”

The Force recorded their second win, scoring four tries from three in the clash between the two bottom-placed sides.

Fly-half Ben Donaldson scored 17 points, including five penalties.

After conceding the opening try, the home side led 16-5 at the break and gave a five-pointer to winger Chase Tiatia.

The visitors fought back to a 22-15 deficit midway through the second half, with Sevu Reece crossing to become the Crusaders’ all-time leading try scorer with 53.

However, the Force finished stronger with attempts to send Sam Carter and Carlo Tizzano through, both from lineout drives.

Earlier, Hoskins Sotutu crossed two tries as the Auckland Blues ran away with a resounding 46-7 winner over the ACT Brumbies on Saturday.

A match between the teams sitting second and third in the standings turned into a rout as the home side scored seven tries in wet conditions at Eden Park.

It was the fifth straight win for the second-placed Blues, leaving them five points behind the Wellington Hurricanes, the only team to beat them this season.

The result ended a five-match winning streak for the Brumbies, who sit third after slumping to the third biggest defeat in their history and the biggest in 13 years.

With the powerful Blues forward in control, Sotutu was prominent with ball in hand and scored at the start and end of the first half, putting his team 24-0 ahead at the break.

It took the dynamic back rower eight tries to lead the league for the season.

– ©AFP2024