Super Rugby Pacific

Force smash Waratahs in Perth

May 19, 2024 6:30 am

[Source: MSports]

The Western Force have all but ended the NSW Waratahs’ finals hopes with a 27-7 victory at HBF Park.

The injury-hit Waratahs led 7-0 early in Saturday night’s Super Rugby Pacific match, but the Force piled on 27 unanswered points to snare back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

The Force thought they had secured a bonus point with a final-minute try, but replays showed Bayley Kuenzle had lost control of the ball while being tackled by three opponents in the corner.

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The home side had one more chance to snare the bonus point after the final siren, but the Waratahs’ defence held firm.

Fijian Drua’s 28-19 win over the Reds earlier in the day meant the Force started Saturday night’s match six points adrift of eighth spot.

They are now just two points behind Drua with games against the Reds (away) and Brumbies (home) to come.

The last-placed Waratahs are nine points adrift of eighth spot.

It means they will need bonus-point wins against Moana Pasifika and the Reds – plus a host of other results to go their way – if they are to sneak into the finals.

The Waratahs, celebrating the 100-game milestone of skipper Jake Gordon, scored the opening try of the match via fullback Mark Nawaqanitawase in the seventh minute.

But the rest of the half belonged to the Force as they piled on 20 unanswered points to take a 20-7 lead into the break.

Their first try came via a sweet backline move, with Hamish Stewart, Ben Donaldson and Kurtley Beale all dishing off quick passes on the charge to set up Kuenzle.

Donaldson scored the Force’s second try in the 20th minute following a line-busting run from flanker Will Harris.

Both teams were guilty of committing simple errors during the first half.

Donaldson’s kick for touch after a penalty ended up being a shank that was cut off by an opponent.

Another key mistake came on the stroke of halftime when Waratahs winger Triston Reilly fumbled Stewart’s huge torpedo.

A penalty against the Waratahs in the ensuing scrum gifted Donaldson three points via an after-the-siren kick, ensuring the Force had all the momentum going into halftime.

The Waratahs’ prop stocks were already threadbare entering the match, and they suffered another blow in the 51st minute when Lewis Ponini limped off.

Kuenzle pulled off a crucial double tackle in the 65th minute to deny the Waratahs a try-scoring opportunity on the wing.

The Waratahs’ victory hopes were all but killed off a minute later when Brad Amituanai was handed a yellow card.

A powerful Force scrum set up Reed Prinsep for a 69th-minute try, but the home side couldn’t do enough to get what would have been a crucial bonus point.