The Force scored five tries to defeat the Waratahs 40-11 in Perth on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
This was another dead rubber in the last round of the regular season, but a memorable win for the Force, who may well have made their last Super Rugby appearance. It was also a fitting send-off for outgoing Force captain Matt Hodgson, who announced his retirement after 12 years of loyal service at the franchise.
Earlier in the week, Waratahs captain Michael Hooper lambasted his leadership group, saying ‘good teams are made up of good leaders and that didn’t follow [at the Tahs] this year’. The 25-year-old then called on his charges to step up in their final game of the season, but judging by what transpired in Perth, Hooper’s plea fell on deaf ears as the Waratahs delivered one of their worst performances of the year.
The Force were dominant from the outset. They controlled the pace of the game, bossed the scrums and led the way at the lineouts.
A break from the kick-off by centre Curtis Rona led to a try for wing Alex Newsome in the second minute. And when the Waratahs were reduced to 14 players, hooker Tafatu Polota-Nau barged over.
Bernard Foley succeeded with two penalty goals to get the Waratahs on the board, but the hosts ended the first half on a high as backs Marcel Brache and Jono Lance darted over for two more tries.
Despite holding a comfortable 26-6 lead, the Force maintained their ruthless edge.
From a defensive scrum on their 5m line, Waratahs No 8 Michael Wells secured possession at the back, but came under pressure from Michael Ruru and fumbled possession. This allowed Hodgson to go over for his 20th Super Rugby try.
There would be no riposte from the Waratahs. Lance proceeded to add two more penalties, before Hodgson stepped up to slot an 80th-minute penalty in his last competitive game, and perhaps the Force’s last in Super Rugby.
Force – Tries: Alex Newsome, Tafafu Polotu-Nau, Marcel Brache, Jono Lance, Matt Hodgson. Conversions: Peter Grant (2), Lance. Penalties: Lance (2). Hodgson.
Waratahs – Penalties: Bernard Foley (2).
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jono Lance, 23 James Verity-Amm.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Dean Mumm, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 David Lolohea, 18 Angus Taavao, 19 David McDuling, 20 Ryan McCauley, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Photo: Will Russell/Getty Images