GARETH DUNCAN writes the Waratahs slumped to their third defeat of the season as they were edged 21-20 by the Force in Sydney.
The Waratahs have suffered their worst Super Rugby start since 1997 as they’ve only won one match out of their four fixtures so far. Considered as one of the powerhouses in the Australian conference, they were expected to beat the bumbling Force at home, especially considering the latter’s poor form which has seen them endure a three-match losing streak.
However, an impressive turnout from the Perth team led to the shock result. The Waratahs seemed capable of closing out the game as they built good momentum and held a 20-16 lead in the final quarter. Just when the Force seemed like they had nothing left in their fight, wing Samu Wara displayed great finishing to score the match-winning try 15 minutes from time.
The Force were the better team in the first half, as their dominance in the forwards battle helped them boss possession. After Adam Ashley-Cooper’s try via a rolling maul in the opening minutes, the Force spent most of the first 40 in the Waratahs’ territory. Although they lacked that clinical edge in the red zone, fullback David Harvey capitalised on the Force’s ascendancy and scored 10 points in the first quarter.
The former sevens specialist opened his team’s tally with a three-pointer before the Waratahs were reduced to 14 men when lock Dean Mumm was yellow carded for a professional foul. From the resulting penalty, which was kicked to touch, Harvey finished off a smart move in midfield and added the conversion.
The hosts regained the lead when wing Tom Kingston crossed the chalk against the run of play (the Waratahs only had 20% of possession during this period), after Sarel Pretorius’s tackle on opposite number Brett Sheen created a counter attack. Although the ball was knocked forward by the South African No 9, play continued and Pretorius’ hack into space set up Kingston in the corner. Harvey kicked his second penalty for the final action before the break, seeing the half-time score read 14-13 in the Waratahs’ favour.
It was a close contest in the second stanza, with Harvey and Halangahu trading penalties to see the lead change twice. Eventually, Wara’s score gave the Force the advantage. The visitors then camped in the Waratahs’ half at the death, and they held on for victory.