Force show fighting spirit in narrow loss
The Western Force showed fighting spirit in going down 14-23 against the NSW Waratahs in their first Super Rugby match in three years at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Waratahs scored two tries to one in the Vodafone Super Rugby AU clash, holding the Force scoreless in the second half after the visitors had dominated the first period to lead 14-7 at halftime.
It was a tale of two halves, with the Force dominant from the outset and playing some entertaining and controlled rugby. The Force opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a penalty by scrumhalf and captain Ian Prior after a sustained period of pressure in the Waratahs half.
Playing with great control and discipline, the Force made their 60 per cent possession advantage count in the 30th minute when a series of recycles saw them use their short-passing game – honed during Global Rapid Rugby – to create a try-scoring opportunity for winger Byron Ralston in the corner. It was the sixth time in the last seven meetings between the two teams that the Force had scored the opening try.
Prior was unsuccessful with the conversion but with the Force maintaining pressure, the skipper added two penalties within the next four minutes to stretch his side’s lead to 14-0.
The Waratahs halved the Force advantage on the stroke of half-time when prop Angus Bell went over after a series of snipes at the line following a 5-metre scrum. Flyhalf Will Harrison converted to take the score to 14-7.
The Waratahs showed more urgency in the second half and narrowed the gap to 14-10 with a penalty by Harrison five minutes after the restart. With a more even contest developing, play moved across the length of the pitch as both sides looked to create scoring chances.
The Waratahs emerged as the stronger of the two teams in the final quarter, dominating territory and forcing their opponent into conceding a string of penalties.
Harrison brought the Waratahs to within a point at 13-14 with a penalty in the 60th minute and the Waratahs took the lead for the first time a few minutes later, holding possession well after winning a 50/22 lineout and sending replacement flank Tom Staniforth in for the try under the posts. Harrison converted to put the Waratahs 20-14 in front.
With the Force defence under sustained pressure, the Waratahs won another penalty in front of the Force posts with seven minutes to play, allowing Harrison to kick his third and extending the Waratahs lead to nine points at 23-14.
Despite the loss, the Force showed positive signs on attack and defence and confirmed that they will be competitive in the remainder of the competition.
This match report is brought to you by PS Structures. PS Structures supports rugby in WA from the grassroots community game through to the professional Western Force team.
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