The Force ended a 10-match losing streak with a hard-fought 18-11 win against the Waratahs in Perth on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Force's last win had come against the champions in Sydney on the opening weekend of the competition. Few had given them much chance of doing the double, but they were again the better team and deserved to come away with four log points that takes them off the foot of the combined log.
For the Waratahs, the shock loss ended their three-match winning run and could end up costing them the Australian conference trophy.
Apart from the three tries scored, this was another dire Australian derby that neutrals will quickly forget.
The Force dominated possession and territory in the opening 15 minutes, but had nothing to show for it as, with regular goal-kicker Sias Ebersohn having left the field for a concussion test, both Marcel Brache and replacement Luke Burton were unsuccessful with penalty attempts.
But the hosts did get on the board at the end of the first quarter, when Jacques Potgieter lost the ball in the tackle and Ryan Louwrens darted away from the next ruck to score. While Ebersohn had returned to the field, it was Burton who slotted the conversion.
Bernard Foley then kicked two penalty goals for the Waratahs, before Burton knocked one over from straight in front to make it 10-6 after half an hour.
The Tahs were reduced to 14 men seven minutes before the break when Sekope Kepu was yellow-carded for rucking an opponent.
Burton kicked his second penalty at the end of the first half, before Kurtley Beale's 51m attempt after the hooter fell short. Foley and Burton were then both off target early in the second half.
The game finally came to life in the 52nd minute when the Tahs went wide to Taqele Naiyaravoro, who collected a loose pass, shrugged off the first tackle and then beat another two defenders to score in the right-hand corner.
Foley's conversion went wide, as did Ebersohn's penalty attempt minutes later.
The next time the hosts were awarded a kickable penalty, they went for the corner and set up an excellent driving maul that resulted in a try for Matt Hodgson.
With 10 minutes to go, the Force captain was harshly sin-binned for not releasing the tackled player but it didn't cost his team any points.
And while Ebersohn missed a late penalty that would have put his side 11 points ahead, the hosts finished the game inside Tahs' territory and booted a scrum penalty into the stands.
Force – Tries: Ryan Louwrens, Matt Hodgson. Conversion: Luke Burton. Penalties: Burton (2).
Waratahs – Try: Taqele Naiyaravoro. Penalties: Bernard Foley (2).
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Marcel Brache.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Dave Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Tala Gray, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Matt Carraro.
Photo: Robert Prezioso/Getty Images