Super Rugby Pacific: Waratahs the Force

Three quick tries were crucial as the Waratahs beat the Western Force in Perth.

An early NSW blitz proved too much for the Western Force, with the Waratahs easing to a 41-24 win in Perth on Saturday night.

The Waratahs. whose starting side included Wallabies captain Michael Hooper made a blistering start to the Super Rugby Pacific contest, scoring three tries in the first 15 minutes to lead 24-0.

From then on it was an even contest, with the depleted Force enjoying plenty of possession and scoring four tries of their own.

However, the Waratahs also scored three more tries to secure their fifth win of the season and condemn the Force to a sixth defeat from eight matches.

The Waratahs finished the match with 13 players on the field after replacement Mahe Vailanu and centre Lalakai Foketi sin-binned in the final 10 minutes of the match.

The Force used their numerical advantage to score a late try through Reesjan Pasitoa to deny the visitors a bonus point,

However, Pasitoa’s own sin-binning earlier in the half proved costly for the hosts, with Waratahs fullback Alex Newsome scoring two tries while the flyhalf was off the field to end any slim hopes the Force had of winning the match.

Waratahs coach Darren Coleman said to not get the bonus point “soured” an otherwise “really good night”.

“I guess you’ve got to be careful how much you want it was huge to come over here and get a win in Perth,” Coleman said.

“We haven’t done that a lot in the past four or five outings, so I’m pleased with the result, but the bonus point would have been icing on the cake.”

The gallant Force were without several players, as well as coach Tim Sampson.

Sampson, Wallabies lock Izack Rodda, and halfback Issak Fines-Leleiwasa were all in isolation after being deemed close contacts.

Others missing from the Force line-up included Feleti Kaitu’u (calf). lock Jeremy Thrush (general soreness), centre Bayley Kuenzle (gastro), and winger Toni Pulu (concussion).

It was perhaps no wonder that the Force were all at sea in the opening quarter of an hour as the Waratahs opened up a sizeable lead through tries from winger Mark Nawaqanitawase, Foketi and flanker Hooper, who was back in the starting team after making his NSW comeback two weeks ago off the bench.

Nawaqanitawase started the onslaught when he intercepted an Ian Prior pass to sprint away and score under the posts.

Soon after Foketi profited from some slick work from flyhalf Tane Edmed – who had earlier given the Waratahs a 3-0 lead with a penalty – to also streak away and score.

It was then all too easy for Hooper, who gathered possession from the base of the ruck before charging into a gaping hole in the Force’s defensive line to cross the try-line untouched.

The shell-shocked Force needed an immediate response, and it came with a try in the 20th-minute from Pasitoa, who made the most of a Manasa Mataele pass.

Prior converted to make it 24-7, with the Force then controlling the rest of the first half without capitalising on their territorial dominance.

The Force’s fightback continued after half-time, with flanker Tim Anstee gaining possession from the side of a ruck to score seven minutes into the second half.

However, an immediate error proved costly for Force, with Waratahs hooker Dave Porecki barging his way over the try-line from a maul in the 51st minute.

Trailing 31-12, the Force responded with a try to hooker Andrew Ready five minutes later, before Pasitoa’s yellow card and sin-binning put the contest firmly in the Waratahs’ favour.

Force attack coach Mark Ozich said his side needed “tough lessons and education (on) how to start a game”.

“The first 20 minutes, or 15 of that, 24-0 down, the game’s effectively over really,” Ozich said.

Originally published as Waratahs’ fast start proves too tough for Western Force to recover from