Western Force 12 – Waratahs 17
With this hard fought win the Waratahs have taken an unconvincing season start and turned it into the foundations of a serious charge at the 2008 Super 14 semi-finals. Thanks to Sky only showing two matches this weekend, I’ve been able to see diddly-squat of this game, not even highlights.
But by the sounds of things, it was a combination of the Waratahs dogged defence – even repelling one move of 20 phases in their own 22 – and taking the two key scoring opportunities that came their way that sealed the game. The Force losing their attacking maestro Giteau through a KO early in the match certainly wouldn’t have helped their cause.
What a way for NSW to capitalise on their win against the Blues last week. This puts them fourth (equal 3rd on points with the ‘Canes) in the table behind the undefeated Crusaders and Sharks, having sat out their bye as well.
For the Force, another loss at home (incredibly the Force have a 25% win rate at Subiaco) goes from quirky to debilitating and drops them to 6th, with them having had an extra game than all but the Bulls (12th) and Cheetahs (13th).
The run in for both teams becomes vital.
The Tahs have:
Lions (H) – bonus point win needed and expected
Sharks (H) – a big win with the Sharks undefeated, but psychologically vital for finals hopes
Bulls (A) – last year’s champions beatable and Louden should have the low-down
Stormers (A) – a toughie on the road against Burger’s boys
Reds (A) – Tahs should be a win on form, but the Reds won’t lie down at home
The Force have:
Reds (A) – with Giteau out with concussion I can see the Reds taking this one
Bye – effectively a loss in this competition
Chiefs (H) – these guys are coming good and is home ground an advantage for the Force?
Hurricanes (A) – are currently 3rd; ouch
Brumbies (H) – Force should do it, but the Brumbies aren’t easy beats
All in all neither are easy or impossible routes, but the bye for the Force leaves them little room for manoeuvre. Prior to this result I might have said that the WA side was Australia’s better hope if any side could make it to the finals. However, their fragility at home and NSW’s building momentum based on solid defense and set-piece have reversed my thinking.
All aboard the Waratah Band Wagon.
For the Force:
Pens: Giteau, Shepherd 3
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Horne, Turner
Cons: Beale 2
Yellow card: Mafi (80, Waratahs, deliberate infringement)
Western Force: 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Scott Staniforth, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Chris O’Young, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fava, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Tom Hockings, 3 Troy Takiari, 2 Tai McIsaac, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 AJ Whalley, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 James Stannard, 21 Lachlan MacKay, 22 Haig Sare.
Waratahs: 15 Sam Norton-Knight, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Dan Vickerman, 4 Will Caldwell, 3 Matt Dunning, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Al Baxter, 18 David Lyons, 19 Beau Robinson, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Matt Carraro, 22 Alfi Mafi
Referee: Brett Bowden (Australia)
Touch Judges: Paul Marks (Australia), James Scholtens (Australia)