GARETH DUNCAN reports on the Waratahs’ 23-18 win over the Force in Perth.
It wasn’t a convincing showing from the Sydney team as they relinquished a 14-point lead in the second half. Nevertheless, two Berrick Barnes penalties were enough to secure the vital win. This victory over the Force is only the Waratahs’ third triumph from their seven fixtures, which sees them crawl nearer to a play-off place on the standings and they jump into second spot in the Australian conference.
For the Force, however, it was their sixth defeat in eight matches and a second successive loss at home.
The Waratahs were the dominant team in the first half, and rightfully held on to a 10-3 lead at the break as they bossed the breakdowns and showed more attacking potency with ball in hand. This saw wing Tom Kingston finish off a swift counter-attack after Force flank Richard Brown lost the ball in contact. Scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin slotted the conversion, adding to the three points he kicked earlier in the stanza.
The hosts had their opportunities to score, but could only capitalise via a David Harvey penalty.
It was a disappointing finish to the opening 40 for the visitors as they camped inside the Force 22m area in the closing stages. They were awarded kickable penalties during this continuous pressure, but opted to pursue for the try and failed.
The Waratahs started the second half with an early try as a smart lineout move gave flank Dave Dennis a clear run to the chalk.
On the back of a 17-3 deficit, the Force fought back bravely.
Scrumhalf Brett Sheheen powered over from close range as momentum swung into the Force’s favour. The Waratahs managed to restrict the Perth side’s ascendancy momentarily, but illegally, and they were reduced to 14 men after fullback Bernard Foley was shown a yellow card for a breakdown infringement.
With their one-man advantage, the Force gained a slim 18-17 lead after wing Alfie Mafi’s try and Harvey’s five points via a conversion and penalty.
Once they returned to 15 men, the Waratahs managed to close off the match in the final quarter. Barnes, who took over the kicking duties form McKibbin, converted two penalties from three goal attempts to seal a close win.