Force give Hodgson a perfect send-off
SUPER RUGBY MATCH REPORT: The Western Force gave retiring captain Matt Hodgson a perfect send-off - with a 40-11 demolition of the star-studded Waratahs team in Perth on Saturday.
Hodgson, 36, scored one of his team's five tries and kicked a penalty - the final score of the match - to seal the win, before he will walk off into the sunset.
As for the Force, they made a massive statement, with the uncertainty of their future in Super Rugby - and the possibility of legal action - still hovering large over the Perth-based franchise.
Tipped to be the Australian team cut from Super Rugby by the Australian Rugby Union, they made it successive wins to end the season by running in five tries to one to finish second in the Australian conference.
While the Force's future is uncertain, it was definitely captain Matt Hodgson's last game and his team made sure it was a match of celebration, running in four unanswered tries in the first half against some lacklustre Waratahs defence.
Hodgson, one of several players from the two sides playing their last Super Rugby match, then got into the act with a fairytale try early in the second half as the Force romped away with the match.
The final act of the match saw Hodgson kick the only penalty of his career after the final hooter.
Hodgson, who was an inaugural Force squad member back in 2006, couldn't have imagined a better way to finish his career.
"If I could write a script I would write it that way," he said.
"What the players did for me was pretty special."
Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper said the Force simply wanted it more.
"It was disappointing for us but I want to congratulate Hodgo on a stellar career and it was a fantastic finish for the Force," he said.
Given the dark clouds hanging over the Force, it was almost fitting that the game started in driving rain, but the home side took just 53 seconds to lift the mood.
Alex Newsome delivered the game's first try, after Curtis Rona made a break and dished off a well-timed pass.
A Bernard Foley penalty gave the Waratahs their first points, but their discipline problems continued when Jake Gordon was sin-binned in the 11th minute.
From the resulting penalty, the Force scrum drove strongly towards the line and Tatafu Polota-Nau got the ball down as the lead extended to 14-3.
Peter Grant converted the try, but it was his last involvement as he headed off for a concussion test, which he failed.
Defensive confusion from the Waratahs enabled Marcel Brache to dive on a loose ball for the Force's third try in the 35th minute.
The Force then scored again with the last play of the half, with Jono Lance passing 100 points in Super Rugby when he streaked down the side line after a Rona pass as the Force led 26-6 at the break.
A win in his farewell game would have been enough for Hodgson, but he swooped on a Waratahs fumble in the 44th minute to score his 20th Super Rugby try and the 31-6 lead was always going to be beyond the battling visitors.
He put the seal on the win when he kicked a penalty on the final hooter.
Man of the match: You can look at any number - if not all - of the Western Force players. However, we are giving it to retiring Force captain Matt Hodgson, who played with the same energy and intensity he did when he first arrived on the scene more than a decade ago.
For the Western Force:
Tries: Newsome, Polota-Nau, Brache, Lance, Hodgson
Cons: Grant 2, Lance
Pens: Lance 2, Hodgson
For the Waratahs:
Pens: Foley 2
Yellow card: Jake Gordon (Waratahs, 11 - cynical foul, not retreating 10 metres)
Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jono Lance, 23 James Verity-Amm.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Dean Mumm, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 David Lolohea, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 David McDuling, 20 Ryan McCauley, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Will Houston (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)