The Waratahs broke a three-game losing streak with a resounding 49-13 bonus-point win over the Force in Perth on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Many column inches have been allocated to analysing the Waratahs’ and in particular captain Michael Hooper’s downward spiral of late. And none without merit.
The Waratahs have been abysmal this season with only two wins in six matches. And given the fact that they had lost their last three games against the Force, they weren’t clear-cut favourites for this fixture either. But they responded in the best possible way, to close the gap between themselves and Australian conference leaders the Rebels and Brumbies.
Notwithstanding the importance of the result, the match itself was a dreary affair. If the game between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs can be described as an entertaining pop song, then this was a lullaby trying to put viewers to sleep. After a highly competitive start, the contest turned relatively one-sided.
Peter Grant and Bernard Foley traded penalties early on, but the hosts’ rush defence, which looked to have troubled the Waratahs during the initial stages, proved their undoing. With his team on the attack, Kurtley Beale was caught in possession behind the gainline, but brilliant vision and execution saw him get a miracle pass away to release Rob Horne into acres of space for the opening try.
The Force continued to test the Waratahs’ line and when Hooper conceded a penalty on the ground, Grant slotted a second kick to narrow the gap, but the Force’s own defence was poor, allowing scrumhalf Nick Phipps to score the visitors’ second try on the stroke of half-time for a 17-6 lead.
At the restart, Foley added three more points, but when replacement hooker Harry Scoble’s converted try brought the score to 20-13, the Force were back in the match with just under 30 minutes to go. However, that was their last point-scoring effort. The floodgates opened which saw the Waratahs run away with the win.
Israel Folau crossed for his 30th Super Rugby try to surpass Lote Tuqiri as the Waratahs' all-time leading try-scorer, followed by a try from fellow league-convert Reece Robinson.
Foley then kicked another penalty, before Angus Ta’avao and Jed Holloway scuttled in for late tries to complete a win that could kick-start the Waratahs’ campaign.
Force – Try: Harry Scoble. Conversion: Ben Tapuai. Penalties: Peter Grant (2).
Waratahs – Tries: Rob Horne, Nick Phipps, Israel Folau, Reece Robinson, Angus Ta’avao, Jed Holloway. Conversions: Bernard Foley (5). Penalties: Foley (3).
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Subs: 16 Harry Scoble, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Rory Walton, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Kyle Godwin, 23 Albert Nikoro.
Waratahs – 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Will Skelton, 4 David Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Hugh Roach, 1 Paddy Ryan.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Matt Carraro.
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images