The Waratahs overturned a 14-point deficit to defeat the Western Force 23-14 in their Super Rugby AU match in Sydney on Saturday.
It’s a stale comparison by now, but the difference in quality and class between a New Zealand derby and an Australian one is arguably at an all-time high.
Earlier in the day, audiences were treated to a riveting contest between the Crusaders and Blues, with the former coming from behind to beat the latter 26-15. In Sydney, viewers had to settle for an uninspiring and mediocre game that failed to rouse enthusiasm from the players and excitement from onlookers.
Boring as it was, the Force were back playing in a top-flight competition for the first time since they were booted from Vodacom Super Rugby in 2017 and they took the fight to the more accomplished and settled Waratahs. While the hosts battled to get out of first gear, the Force dictated the pace of the game and field possession.
The Waratahs defence couldn’t sufficiently deal with the Force’s short passing game and quick transfer of the ball, allowing the visitors to race out to an 14-0 lead in the first half courtesy of a well-constructed try by wing Byron Ralston and three penalties by scrumhalf Ian Prior.
Despite the Waratahs’ struggles up to that point, former captain Michael Hooper deserves a mention for his gritty display. Hooper was all over the park, trying his best to unsettle the Force bat the breakdown, while also flying into tackles. But with little support from his teammates, his efforts went a little under the radar.
Starring down the barrel, the Waratahs would eventually get on the scoreboard with a try on the stroke of half time and that proved to be the catalyst for a turnaround for the hosts.
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) July 11, 2020
Scoring a total of 23 unanswered points, the Waratahs slowly worked their way into the lead. Flyhalf Will Harrison was instrumental in the accumulation of those points, slotting three penalties and two conversions for a 100% record off the kicking tee.
Waratahs – Try: Angus Bell, Tom Staniforth. Conversions: Will Harrison (2). Penalties: Harrison (3).
Force – Try: Byron Ralston. Penalties: Ian Prior (3).
Waratahs –15 Jack Maddocks, 14 James Ramm, 13 Alex Newsome, 12 Joey Walton, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Mitch Short, 8 Will Harris, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Angus Bell.
Subs: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Michael Mcdonald, 22 Ben Donaldson/Tepai Moeroa, 23 Karmichael Hunt.
Western Force – 15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Nick Jooste, 11 Brad Lacey, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Tevin Ferris, 6 Henry Stowers, 5 Fergus Lee Warner, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Angus Wagner.
Subs: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Johan Bardoul 20 Ollie Callan, 21 Jacob Abel, 22 Henry Taefy, 23 Kyle Godwin.
Photo: Getty Images