James O’Connor has celebrated his Gold Coast homecoming by leading the Queensland Reds to a 57-5 win over the Western Force and notching a unique Super Rugby milestone.
Playing his first game on the Gold Coast for more than a decade in the Force’s “home” game at Cbus Super Stadium, O’Connor became the first Super Rugby player to score more than 100 points for three different clubs.
O’Connor’s career in Australia looked over before he linked with his home state last year but former bad boy has rewarded coach Brad Thorn’s faith.
At 30, the former Force and Melbourne Rebels playmaker is the Reds’ elder statesman and he played a stable hand, setting up a pair of tries before scoring his own in the second half as the Reds ran away with the match.
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The Reds were forced to play catch-up last time they met the Force but applied the pressure from the kick-off, dominating possession in the first half to go to the break up 15-0.
The Force gave themselves a hint when they scored the opening try of the second half, with hooker Andrew Ready diving over from a rolling maul.
But it was the only sniff they would get, with the Reds piling on 42 unanswered points to crush the Force and leave the West Australians winless in their Super Rugby return.
O’Connor’s homecoming only just overshadowed a monster game from Taniela Tupou, whose thunderous runs broke open the match on several occasions, with the Tongan Thor only missing a try when he lost his footing in sight of the line.
James O’Connor offloads a pass against the Force. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Scrumhalf Tate McDermott was also strong, scoring two tries in a commanding performance.
But the win came at a cost, with the Reds’ already thin centre stocks diminished further with Josh Flook and Hamish Stewart forced to leave the field with injuries.
Making his first Super Rugby AU start in place of the injured Hunter Paisami, teen ace Flook was forced from the field with what looked like a dislocated shoulder, while Stewart limped from the ground with a hip issue.
QUEENSLAND REDS 57 (Tries: Daugunu 2, McDermott 2, McReight, O’Connor, Hegarty, Tualima; Cons: O’Connor 7; Pens: O’Connor)
WESTERN FORCE 5 (Try: Ready)
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