Force send Crusaders to bottom of Super Rugby table

Darren Walton |

Kurtley Beale made a triumphant debut for the Western Force against the Crusaders.
Kurtley Beale made a triumphant debut for the Western Force against the Crusaders.

The Western Force have heaped more pain on the Crusaders and dragged themselves off the bottom of the Super Rugby Pacific ladder with a potentially season-turning 37-15 bonus-point victory over the fallen champions in Perth.

Former Wallabies star Kurtley Beale made a triumphant debut for the WA franchise in his first Super Rugby outing since 2020 as the Force notched their first win over the Crusaders in more than a decade.

The momentous 37-15 victory in the bottom-of-the-table encounter at HBF Park on Saturday night reignited the Force’s finals hopes after a one-from-seven start to the season and left the Crusaders’ title defence in tatters.

The most prolific champions in Super history with a dozen titles since the competition’s inception in 1996, the Crusaders now face the ignominy of going from winners to wooden spooners after a disastrous start to their 2024 campaign.

In what would have been unthinkable before the season kicked off, the Crusaders are now dead last after winning only one of their first eight games. 

It’s an alarming scenario for embattled coach Rob Penney, who three years ago presided over the opening five games of the NSW Waratahs’ historic first-ever winless season.

While Penney must be stressing, Force coach Simon Cron is plotting a path to the finals after his side moved to within a victory of the top eight with their first success over the Crusaders since 2013.

Chase Tiatia
Chase Tiatia goes over for a try as the Western Force power to a convincing win over the Crusaders. (HANDOUT/Western Force)

And they did it despite spending 10 minutes of the first half a man down following the sin-binning of flanker Carlo Tizzano.

Wallabies World Cup halfback Nic White was unable to contain his excitement for Beale, who was front and centre in the Force’s win in his first Super match in almost four years.

On debut for the Force after being cleared of sexual assault charges, the 35-year-old one-time world player of the year nominee was brilliant at fullback.

“His communication is phenomenal,” White said.

“Right from the first training session to this game, it’s just his guidance is helping Donno (five-eighth Ben Donaldson), helping our centres.

“Having a gut like that, eh?”

Jubilant Force coach Cron, a former assistant at the NSW Waratahs, said he was stoked about Beale answering his SOS call last week.

“KB and I go back a little bit,” Cron said.

“And when I gave him the phone call, it was a pretty easy conversation and he jumped on the plane with Maddy, his wife, and their son.

“Watching him at training on Thursday, he just glides, his timing.

“But also what he gives to our boys is from the back three. It gives some experience, and it gives them some chat.

“So he helps Hamish (Stewart). He helps Donno (Ben Donaldson). He helps chase on the edge.

“I just don’t think you can underestimate what he does with his voice.”

AAP