The Western Force maintained their unbeaten record in Global Rapid Rugby with an impressive 27-15 victory against the Fijian Latui in Lautoka at the weekend.
The home side opened the scoring with a fifth minute try to returning halfback Frank Lomani but a yellow card to captain Mosese Voka enabled the Force to seize control of the match with tries to Issak Fines and Jack McGregor.
Manu Samoa international AJ Alatimu added two conversions and a penalty to open give the visitors a 12 point advantage at half-time and slotted another penalty goal 10 minutes into the second spell to extend their lead to 20-5 with 25 minutes remaining.
Mosese Voka atoned for his first half indiscretion with a 57th minute try to cut the deficit to 10 points only for Apisalome Vota to become the second Latui player sent to the sin bin two minutes later. The Force wasted no time capitalising on their one-man advantage with replacement hooker Feleti Kaitu'u scoring their third try of the match a minute later to extend the lead to 17 points, with Flying Fijians international Mesulame Dolokoto managing a consolation try in the final minute.
Veteran Western Force hooker Heath Tessmann said they were able to withstand some early pressure before taking control of the match.
"We know that even going through our Australian NRC competition and other teams coming over here they haven't had much success over here so we knew they were going to come out on fire and throwing everything at us," he said.
"We were pretty happy to chance our arm early and it didn't really pay off but we've got a good group where we kind of understood that if we just persisted at our work, kept kind of pushing for it and pushing for it and staying patient, that the opportunities would present themselves later and fortunately they did and we capitalised from there on."
Global Rapid Rugby is the brainchild of Western Force owner Andrew Forrest and was formed in reponse to the team's axing from Super Rugby in 2017.
After hosting a series of exhibition matches last year, the Force defeated a World XV in March in a one-off clash and finished unbeaten in the "Asia Showcase" series against teams from Singapore and China.
The "Pacific Showcase" Series between the Force, Fijian Latui and Kagifa Samoa kicked off earlier this month while plans are in motion to launch a full-scale professional competition from 2020.
Heath Tessman said Rapid Rugby has been a welcome addition to the rugby landscape and provided a lifeline for the sport in Western Australia and the Pacific Islands,after both regions were given the cold shoulder by Super Rugby's governing body SANZAAR.
"I think a lot of the teams understand that it's still something that's kind of snowballing and building too....as violent and competitive as it is on the field there's still a very good camaraderie when we come off the field, " he said. "Because we all understand that we're trying to get something to grow for the game of rugby and for the great of this competition as well so we're all in it for kind of good reasons right now and we're enjoying it."
The Western Force squad also has a strong Pacific Island presence, including Samoa internationals AJ Alatimu, Henry Taefu and Rodney Iona, former Samoa Under 20s loose forward Henry Stowers and Masivesi Dakuwaqa, who was a part of Fiji's Olympic gold medal winning sevens team.
"We've got guys from all the Pacific Islands, we've got guys from South Africa, from the UK (and USA), from NZ as well," he said. "It's a great mix of guys that we managed to get together last year and it's kept together for nearly 18 months now and with that group of guys, where there is lots of different guys from different backgrounds and different experiences, we've been able to really harness that and it gives the group a lot of growth as well."
The Pacific Showcase continues on Friday with the Force hosting Kagifa Samoa in Perth.