The Western Force's tough run against New Zealand sides has continued as they suffered a convincing 54-21 loss to the COVID-hit Chiefs in Hamilton.
The Force were desperate to come out firing in Saturday's Super Rugby Pacific match after copping a 61-10 loss to the Highlanders and a 53-15 defeat to the Crusaders over the past fortnight.
But a hat-trick of tries to Chiefs inside centre Quinn Tupaea put the game to bed by early in the second half, with the home side running in eight tries to three to secure the bonus-point win.
The result has put the Chiefs (9-4) in the box seat to secure a top-four berth and a home quarter-final.
The Force (2-10) will have little other than pride to fight for in the final two matches of their disappointing season.
The only sour note to come out of the match for the Chiefs was an injury to captain Sam Cane, whose right knee buckled under contact from the side from Force prop Santiago Medrano.
The All Blacks skipper will now undergo scans to determine the extent of the damage.
The Chiefs entered the match missing a host of players due to COVID-19 protocols, but it mattered little as they ran riot from the outset.
The Force's scrum crumbled so badly on numerous occasions in the first half that they ended up avoiding it at all costs when given the choice.
The scoreline read 21-0 after 31 minutes following a double to Tupaea and a barging try to prop Aidan Ross.
Tupaea's second try was particularly impressive, with the powerful centre fending off an opponent and touching down with his outstretched arm while two other Force tacklers were hanging off him.
The Force finally had something to smile about in the 32nd minute when a chip kick from flyhalf Jake McIntrye found winger Toni Pulu, who caught the ball at full flight before touching down in the corner.
Only some intense defence from the Chiefs denied the Force a second try on the stroke of half time.
The defensive grit proved crucial in halting the Force's momentum, with the Chiefs coming out firing early in the second half to put the game to bed.
Tupaea secured his hat-trick in the 46th minute when he fended off McIntyre to stroll over, and a burst from flyhalf Bryn Gatland three minutes later set up an impressive team try to fullback Kaleb Trask.
The Chiefs ran in another four tries after that, including two to reserve hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho.
Chiefs 54 (Quinn Tupaea 3, Aidan Ross, Kaleb Trask, Tupou Vaa’i, Samisoni Taukei’aho 2 tries: Kaleb Trask, Bryn Gatland 6 cons) Force 21 (Toni Pulu, Jeremy Thrush, Michael McDonald tries: Ian Prior, Jake McIntyre, Michael McDonald cons) HT: 21-7
Chiefs (1-15): Aidan Ross, Bradley Slater, Angus Ta’avao, Samipeni Finau, Tupou Vaa’i, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane (cc), Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber (cc), Bryn Gatland, Chase Tiatia, Quinn Tupaea, Alex Nankivell, Emoni Narawa, Kaleb Trask
RESERVES: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Josh Barlett, George Dyer, Hamilton Burr, Mitch Brown, Xavier Roe, Inga Finau, Rameka Poihipi
Force (1-15): Tom Robertson, Feleti Kaitu’u ©, Santiago Medrano, Ryan McCauley, Izack Rodda, Fergus Lee-Warner, Tim Anstee, Jackson Pugh, Ian Prior, Jake McIntyre, Toni Pulu, Reesjan Pasitoa, Kyle Godwin, Byron Ralston, Jake Strachan
RESERVES: Andrew Ready, Angus Wagner, Bo Abra, Jeremy Thrush, Will Sankey, Michael McDonald, Richard Kahui, Brad Lacey
Referee: James Doleman
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Nick Hogan
This is just sensational stuff from the @ChiefsRugby #CHIvFOR | #CultureRound pic.twitter.com/lUNYOUp3He— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 21, 2022