Waratahs defeat defiant Force - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Waratahs defeat defiant Force

Waratahs defeat defiant Force

The Waratahs have claimed their first victory of the Super Rugby AU competition on a historic night that saw the Western Force (finally!) return to Super Rugby. 

It was no secret over the last few years that ever since the Force had been cut from Super Rugby, there had been a great big hole in the Aussie side of the competition for many. 

The sheer tenacity of the fans in the West for refusing to let their team die with this announcement was nothing short of incredible, and the success the club went on to achieve both with Global Rapid Rugby and with their claiming of the National Rugby Championship last year proved to many how valuable a team they had become in the context of Australian rugby. For many, it wasn’t a matter of if they’d return, but when. And yesterday, they did.

The Force had come into this game as the Waratahs’ bogey team, having defeated them in four of their last six clashes, including their famous last laugh in 2017 when they sent off Matty Hodgson in style with a 40-11 drubbing. 

The Waratahs had enjoyed mixed results since then, finishing the 2018 season in 3rd and going down in the semi-final to the Lions, before having a 2019 season that many would prefer to forget. The Tahs have shown some potential under Penney, with the coach turning to the future with a predominately young squad. But aside from one win over the Lions, the team hadn’t yielded much on-field success during this period of intensive and much needed change.

This change seemed to be coming through following a close loss to the Reds last week, which made this clash a particularly interesting one to watch. Add to this, having playing several more games this year than the Force, the balance seemed to tip in favour of the home side.

Western Force reveal their jerseys for Global Rapid Rugby.

The Force showed up in their schmick Black and Gold jerseys.

The Match

If the Force appeared to not have a lot of game time together, it certainly didn’t show in the first half. In fact, they picked up exactly where they left off from their final 2017 game. Riding on the emotion of the occasion, they out-enthused the Waratahs for the much of the opening twenty, and were rewarded early when Prior kicked a penalty goal to put them up 0-3.  Their time in GRR seemed to be showing, with the Force looking to set a faster pace and run the Tahs ragged.

This faster pace was finally rewarded at the 28th minute, when some slick hands and a Tahs side caught napping offside saw Ralston score the opening try for the away side in the corner. While Prior failed to convert, it was safe to say that the Force were looking the more dominant side, up 0-8.

The Waratahs began to get frustrated off the back of struggling to get into the game, and several penalties saw the Force take easy points, both in the 32nd and 35th minute. Prior did not miss on either occasion, and suddenly the men from the West were up by two converted tries, 0-14. Many had written the Force off, but a pushover, they were proving very much not to be.

However, with only a few minutes left in the half, the young Waratahs finally got a foothold in the game. The battle of the Piggies had been a close one up until this point, but when the Waratahs finally found themselves deep in Force territory, they turned to their forwards. After several relentless phases off the ruck, Angus Bell was the recipient of an ingenious pop pass and finally scored on halftime to give the Waratahs some valuable points. Harrison converted and the lads headed off to the changeroom, the game very much up in the air.

Halftime: NSW Waratahs 7-14 Western Force

Will Harrison

Will Harrison in his Sydney NRC colours.

Whatever Penney said to the Tahs at halftime, they came out a much more considered and patient side. Similar to what the Force had done in the latter stages of the first half, the men in sky blue began to chip away at the Force’s lead, with young gun Harrison again showing incredible composure and taking points on offer at the 45th minute.

Finally, after an intense fifteen minute period between the two sides, Harrison rewarded the Tahs again just before the 60th minute with another successful penalty goal. Suddenly, the Force were holding on to a slender 1 point lead, 13-14.

During this period as well, the Waratahs’ forwards began to ask serious questions of the Force scrum and lineout, sensing an opportunity to grab some field dominance. Finally, this dominance resulted in the Force giving away a penalty and the Tahs found themselves deep in enemy territory, with the lead beckoning. Tom Staniforth showed incredible strength to really pin the Force back, before finally combining with the Piggies to score slap bang under the sticks and give the Tahs the lead for the first time. Harrison nailed the conversion and score was 20-14.

The Force were still within range of regaining the lead, however their lack of game time this year was finally beginning to show. The Waratahs, however, were not looking to take any chances with the Force still in striking distance, and in the 73rd minute, with a penalty and try line beckoning, the Tahs went for the points instead, and Harrison’s successful goal saw the Waratahs get out to beyond a converted try, which is where the scores remained until full time.

Full Time Score: NSW Waratahs 23-14 Western Force

If I was a Force fan, I would be really proud of the effort the men from the west put in. Having only played one game together in 2020, (a 51-14 victory over the Malaysia Valke back in March), they came out hungry, played smart, and brought a game style that had the Tahs on the back foot for the majority of the game. The sheer fact they hadn’t had much game time together really was what proved to be their undoing in the second half, as their forwards struggled for cohesion and they found themselves in the offside position. Despite the loss, they proved beyond a doubt that they will be a difficult team to put away in this tournament. They head off to Queensland next week to take on the Reds.

This was a much, MUCH needed win for this young Waratahs side. With Super Rugby seeing this young side pick up only one win from six matches, they needed a confidence booster and should be commended for their patience in chasing the game down in the second half. The win is a much needed one for this side and for Penney, and they will certainly need it for next week when they host current competition favourites the Brumbies at ANZ Stadium.

The Game Changer

Really, it was the fifteen minute period early in the second half. This was a real moment of attrition, with the clear winner of this period the eventual winner of the game. The Tahs forwards really showed some great endurance here, and overcame a good Force pack to finally get the dominance they needed to win.

The GAGR MOTM

The moment Tom Staniforth replaced Ned Hanigan, it was clear he was going to have a big impact in the game. His aggression and hunger to get involved was what bent the forwards battle in favour of the Tahs, and no further example was needed than the try he scored, off the back of an excellent play he started only a few phases earlier.

Wallaby Watch

I saw it before and I say it again, Will Harrison is such an exciting player to watch. He has been showing incredible control with the boot and is improving massively in open play. He is without doubt a Wallaby in waiting. For the Force, Kieran Longbottom also had a really positive game, but Ian Prior was best on park for the away team, really directing the backline well and having a solid night with the boot.

The Details

Crowd: ???

NSW Waratahs 23

Tries: Bell, Staniforth

Cons: Harrison 2/2

Goals: Harrison 3/3

Cards: N/A

Western Force 14

Tries: Ralston

Cons: Prior 0/1

Goals: Prior 3/3

Cards: N/A

  • Tim

    It was a pretty exciting game to watch. Force looked really good but invited the Tahs back into the game. Hooper bloody hell one of his best games he played in awhile. It will be interesting to see how these two teams improve throughout the season the Force had some very exciting players and are getting a few more from overseas. Tahs need to work on their scrum and line-outs if they want to win the comp.

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Nick, a big start but as expected the experience and depth of the Tahs took them through. I have to admit I actually thought Hooper played much better in this game and it’ll be interesting to see if he maintains this. I agree Harrison is looking good and with the Tahs forwards gaining some ascendency later in the game he had the room to show his skills. Maddocks was also good again so well done the Tahs.
    Next week will be a much bigger test though so I guess we’ll see

    • Huw Tindall

      Tell you what I’m loving is having a back 3 and 10 with a decent boot on them for once. Maddocks and Ramm have 50m boots and Marky Mark and Harrison aren’t far behind. The back 3 are all pretty handy under the high ball too. It’s been said already but Maddocks looks at home at 15. Great opportunity to pick and stick all season with him. Banks and DHP have some real competition for the 15 now. That being said I think the Brums will easily do the Tahs next week. Too much set piece quality and experience/cohesion across the park.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        Yeah Maddocks and Harrison are both doing so much better with Beale not there. Makes you wonder a bit.
        The Brumbies should win but they’ll need to up their game a bit. Still play a bit loose and switch off at times which can hurt them

  • Huw Tindall

    Thanks Nick. Thing that impressed me most, besides Hooper’s motor, was the plan B in the second half. Penney clearly gave them a rocket and they played simple direct rugby after the half time. Expect we’ll see Staniforth, Hunt and Dempsey start next week as well. Bench impact was outstanding. Credit to the Force too. Not here to make up the numbers. Will be a tough tournament for them but they shouldn’t be embarrassed. Extra starch with Holmes, Godwin etc working their way into the starting lineup too should help them with competitiveness.

  • Forceright

    All well and good for the Tahs however this puts things in another light.
    Apology issued to Force after ref blunder
    Nick Taylor
    The West Australian
    Sunday, 12 July 2020 2:40PM

    The controversial referee decision that produced a huge momentum swing against Western Force in their loss to the Waratahs was wrong, officials have ruled.

    Rugby Australia’s match review committee said referee Angus Gardner should not have awarded a line-out to the Waratahs under the new 50-22 law that produced the swing in the Force’s 23-14 loss at the SCG on Saturday night.

    Gardner telephoned Force coach Tim Samson to apologise for the error after the review decision.

    Two decisions made under the new law were reviewed by RA’s referee manager Scott Young, referee coach Mitch Chapman and Director of Rugby Scott Johnson.

    Under the law, if a kick from inside a team’s own half bounces into touch in the opposition 22 metres the kicking side gets the line-out.

    Crucially the passage of play before the kick must start inside their half.

    When Karmichael Hunt kicked long into the Force 22 after 60 minutes the starting ruck was inside the Force half and they should have been awarded the line-out.

    It wasn’t and from the set piece Waratahs second-rower Tom Staniforth crashed over to put his side ahead for the first time.

    Fourteen minutes later Hunt again kicked long for touch. Initially the assistant referee marked the ball outside the 22-metre line.

    The Force quickly played on into attack but were called back when Waratahs players complained and the match officials changed the decision.

    The RA review committee found that decision was correct.

    The TV match official cannot fully adjudicate on 50-22 rulings but he did monitor both decisions and agreed with the referee.

    That is expected to change with the referee set to be able to ask the TMO to make rulings.

    Force coach Tim Sampson said his side had plenty of belief and nothing to prove heading into Friday’s clash with the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.

    “We didn’t go into the game worried about proving people wrong. We have to have belief after that performance,” Sampson said.

    “We were comfortable with the way the club has been travelling.

    “There was no sign of nerves. There was no sign of us playing on too much emotion.”

    The Force had a bye in the first round and came close to producing a fairytale win, 1092 days since they humiliated the Waratahs 40-11 in their final Super Rugby match before the Rugby Australia axe fell.

    “We rattled them a few times. I take my hat off to the guys for that first half,” Sampson said.

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover

      Well personally I think they’re stupid friggen rules anyway and don’t add to the game. They, and the goal line drop out should be dumped

  • Ads

    Nice to get the redemption so we can hopefully stop hearing about the last game. Harrison looks more and more like a test style 10 (not in terms of being ready, but in terms of temperament and skill set. Lynagh’ish). Hooper played well and will be G&g 7. The Waratahs deserved the win, and ref whinging sounds like Cheika. The young guys are very exciting.

  • Crescent

    What a game of two halves! Tahs were a shambles in the first half in the face of a fit and frenetic Force outfit who were seizing the opportunity. Then in the second half, the Tahs starved them of possession (70% to Tahs in the second half according to Fox Sports match centre) to steal the result.

    Kicking in general play from the Tahs still needs work in my view. It is refreshing to have options that can get distance, but now they need to work out if they are kicking into space with a decent chase, kicking for corners, or just crapping themselves and roosting it out due to defensive pressure. Too many times it felt like going to the boot was not part of decisive plan to get space, create pressure or relieve pressure meaningfully. Not to mention a grubber just outside the Force 22 on attack from an experienced player that should have remained as ball in hand attack. Some of it is youth, but I put the rest down to not having the smarts we see across the ditch (for example).

    Force were looking good for first hit out, and with some new faces that have not had a lot of time to slot into the team. They would be frustrated with the second half – some decisions went against them, but when they finally saw some ball, they kicked it away. I expected more from their kicks in general play, and I thought that having played the 50/22 under GRR, they might be better placed to derive and advantage, but it did not eventuate.

    Plenty of improvement still in both sides. Side note – I really liked Penney’s statements afterwards. Recognising it’s a young Tahs team that he needs to develop, not wanting to throw the guys under the bus and tempering the expectations (can be read on Rugby Pravda) – refreshing to get a realistic appraisal.

    Hanigan needs to be replaced. Going into contact high and relying on a spin to present the ball is a subbies level stuff. Get low, drive the legs to get over the advantage line and create some space for the backs. Staniforth showed him up again and needs to be given a start. Hunt looked good, except for the haircut. Penney still has a lot of work ahead of him – hopefully he can retain good talent to flesh out the deficiencies.

NSW Waratahs
@Nick_Wasiliev

Die-hard Brumbies/Country Eagles fan now based in Sydney. Author, anthropologist, musician, second rower. Still trying to make sense of the 21st century. Dropped a debut novel last year...

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