Waratahs hold off Western Force
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Waratahs have overcome the late withdrawal of skipper Jake Gordon to record a crucial 22-17 Super Rugby Pacific win over the Western Force in Sydney.
Gordon was a last-minute scratching from the crunch match with a hamstring injury, but Jack Grant proved a worthy replacement at Leichhardt Oval, a ground the scrumhalf’s father knows well.
James Grant was a Waratah himself before switching to Rugby League and playing in Balmain’s famous 1989 grand final side along the likes of Wayne Pearce, Ben Elias and Steve Roach.
The wing was envied for his foot speed but it was Jack Grant’s fast hands that blew Sunday’s game wide open on Sunday.
Grant’s crisp double cut-out pass for fullback Will Harrison earned the Waratahs their second try in the 40th minute and a decisive 22-7 half-time lead that the Force never really looked like pegging back after the break.
“First half he was sharp. He got out and was busy and enterprising,” Waratahs coach Darren Coleman said of his call-up.
For the most part, the Tahs had trouble finishing, despite creating several promising attacking chances.
Execution has been a problem all season so it was frustrating viewing for Waratahs fans when last passes from Izaia Perese and Alex Newsome went to ground with tries seemingly beckoning.
The NSW forwards took matters into their own hands, with energetic flank Charlie Gamble cashing in on driving maul to post the side’s first try in the 15th minute.
The Force had taken the early lead when wing Manasa Mataele broke the line all too easily to score and jolt the Waratahs into action.
But it took a steady stream of penalty goals from man-of-the-match Harrison for the Waratahs to convert their heavy weight of territory and possession into any kind of scoreboard pressure – until Grant’s intervention.
The dour second half seemed destined to be a scoreless section until replacement Force prop Harry Lloyd crashed over late, then Ben Prior slotted a last-minute penalty goal to clinch a precious bonus point for the Force.
Now 1-3 for the season, the Perth franchise’s finals hopes already look shaky, while the Waratahs improved to 2-2 after bouncing back from successive defeats to the Brumbies and Queensland Reds.
“It was unreal,” Coleman said of the Waratahs’s first win of the year at their temporary new home ground.
“Probably not as sharp as we wanted in the second half but just winning is the important thing.
“After the last two weeks, it’s a happy change room.”
Both sides will need to improve markedly, though, to challenge the New Zealand teams in the second half of the competition.
Tries: Gamble, Harrison
Pens: Harrison 4
For Western Force:
Tries: Mataele, Lloyd
Con: Strachan, Prior
Waratahs: 15 Will Harrison, 14 Dylan Pietsch, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Jack Grant, 8 Will Harris, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Max Douglas, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Dave Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Tom Horton/Mahe Vailanu, 17 Te Tera Faulkner, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Geoff Cridge, 20 Langi Gleeson, 21 Carlo Tizzano, 22 Henry Robertson, 23 Mark Nawaqanitawase.
Western Force: 15 Jake Strachan, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Bayley Kuenzle, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Reesjan Pasitoa, 9 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 8 Tim Anstee, 7 Ollie Callan, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Jackson Pugh, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Richard Kahui.
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper & Matt Kellahan
TMO: James Leckie