Hookers lead the way as Force edge Brumbies in thriller

The Western Force will front up to Fijian Drua in the SuperW finals on a high after overcoming a three-try burst from Tania Naden to post a thrilling 38-36 win over the ACT Brumbies in Canberra.

A bonus-point victory in Saturday's match might have been enough for the Force to nab a home semi-final, but in the end they will have to be content with tackling the Drua - who were surprisingly beaten 34-21 by the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday - in Suva on Friday.

The unbeaten NSW Waratahs finished on top of the table, and will take on the fourth-placed Brumbies at Allianz Stadium in Friday's other semi-final.

The Force entered their final game of the regular season knowing a finals berth had already been locked up, but they were desperate to snap a two-game losing streak and keep alive their hopes of a home semi-final.

The match turned out to be a try-fest for the hookers.

Brumbies No.2 Naden crossed in the 23rd, 29th and 62nd minutes for a memorable hat-trick.

Not to be outdone, her Force counterpart Hera-Barb Malcolm Heke scored a first-half double, while her replacement, Canada international Sara Cline, also crossed twice.

It meant hookers scored seven of the 11 tries for the match.

The Force raced out to a 17-0 lead, but the Brumbies hit back hard to take the halftime advantage 24-17.

Cline's second-half double helped turn momentum back the Force's way, with the visitors holding on despite a 77th-minute try to Brumbies fullback Ashlea Bishop ensuring a nervous finish.

The Brumbies will hope to shake off the loss to the Force when they front up to the in-form Waratahs.

"The agression in our team is really good," Naden said after her three-try display.

"We've got really good connection and culture. We've got good skills in our team as well, we just didn't show it today, unfortunately.

"It's always a good battle against the Force."

The Force lost to the Drua 19-5 in Fiji a fortnight ago in wet and muddy conditions and will hope for a more positive outcome next week.

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