By Elliot Raiter
The Road Safety Western Force have overpowered the New South Wales Waratahs 40-11 in a dominant bonus-point victory at NIB Stadium on Saturday night to end the 2017 Super Rugby season.
The men in blue crossed for four tries in the first half and in a fairy tale finish for retiring club legend Matt Hodgson scored the Force’s only try of the second stanza and slotted his first career penalty with the final act of his career.
An emotional Western Force coach Dave Wessels lauded his team on the back of their effort for the retiring leader, with the victory meaning more than just the four points.
“I think that win means everything to the team,” Wessels said.
“On the back of Hodgo, it was a very easy week to be a coach because all the players just wanted to play for him.”
“We played with a lot of intensity and that’s all a mentality, but delighted to be able to send Hodgo off with a try.”
The Road Safety Western Force struck in the opening minute of their final game, with Curtis Rona breaking the NSW line down the right-hand side, before handing the ball on to Alex Newsome, with the number 11 sliding over.
The Waratahs then added their first points for the evening, with a penalty for not rolling away allowing flyhalf Bernard Foley to convert easily from a slight angle.
The men in blue continued to maintain their pressure as Michael Ruru burst through the visitor’s defence, before being tackled in an offside position by Waratahs scrumhalf Jake Gordon, with the NSW playmaker consequently yellow carded in the eighth minute.
The home side took advantage of the extra man immediately, with the insuring penalty resulting in a lineout, with the powerful Force pack forming a rolling maul over the line, with Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau dotting the ball over to double the lead.
The visiting side began to wrestle back momentum deep into the first half with Foley again converting a penalty from directly in front, narrowing the margin to eight points.
The Road Safety Western Force then extended their lead, with some set piece brilliance from the scrum allowing for the home team’s third try of the evening. Ruru was again instrumental, as the scrumhalf went to the short side, before a kick through from Dane Hayletty-Petty saw winger Marcel Brache pounce on the ball over the line.
The Waratahs continued to be their own worst enemy, with a knock on during open play falling in the hands of Rona, with the winger racing down the right-hand side, before drawing the last NSW defender, as Jono Lance dashed 70 metres untouched to cross the try line.
A 20-point lead at half time saw the home side in complete control heading into their last 40-minutes of rugby for the season.
Retiring great Matt Hodgson began the second half in terrific fashion to cross over for his 20th and final Super Rugby try. The Waratahs vulnerable defence crumbled once more, with a scrum deep in their 22 resulting in a turnover from NSW number eight Michael Wells, as the legendary number seven gathered and slammed the ball down to all but seal the thrilling contest.
Jono Lance added more points to his tally, after hitting the post on his first penalty attempt, the replacement flyhalf was gifted another opportunity in front of the posts and made no mistake to stretch the gap to 31 points.
Lance finished off his impressive fixture with another penalty, before the Waratahs collected a consolation try in the 75th minute, with replacement hooker Hugh Roach finishing off a neat scrum set piece for his team’s first try of the night.
With just minutes remaining, the Road Safety Western Force were rewarded with another penalty in front of the posts. In a fitting finale, Hodgson was handed the kicking duties and with his final act as a Force player slotted his first career penalty in front of 10,384 screaming fans.
The Road Safety Western Force ran out 40-11 victors claiming a bonus point victory over the New South Welshmen and securing a second place finish in the Australian conference.