Waratahs outlast Force in Allianz Stadium opener

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There were no backline theatrics but the Waratahs managed to out-Force the Force and take an opening 19-13 win at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.

Their respective attacks dominated the conversation in the lead up to the Sydney clash, but neither had the chance to fire as the rain pelted down on Saturday.

Instead, a tantalising attacking face-off became the attritional battle these fixtures have become known for, but this time it was NSW that outlasted the gritty Westerners.

The Waratahs went straight for the points in the second minute, Reece Robinson slotting the goal.

Jono Lance had the only try of the first half. Photo: Getty ImagesTheir own worst enemy at times, the Force conceded five penalties in the first 15 minutes, with Robinson booting two of those, on his way to a 5/6 kicking record, to give the home side the edge.

Though it was the WA team who seemed to rack up the early infringements, Waratahs tighthead Sekope Kepu was the man yellow-carded after repeated offences.

Jono Lance notched the only try of the first half, as the Force made the most of the Kepu yellow card to overpower the Waratahs scrum.

Lance was a standout in his Super Rugby return, after an injury-affected 2016, steering the side’s new backline.

NSW took the mantle of ill discipline in the back end of the opening term, coughing up six, with the final two of the half handing the Force back the lead.

Irae Simone had a tough night against the Force. Photo: Getty ImagesWill Skelton had the first of the second half, crashing over off a quick Nick Phipps tap, shirtfronting Force centre Curtis Rona on the way through.

The Waratahs grew in confidence from that point on, dominating the possession and starting to get on top at scrum time.

Rob Horne was dangerous in attack, while Bryce Hegarty had a serviceable game steering the Waratahs ship in the absence of Bernard Foley (concussion).

Tatafu Polota-Nau had the chance to face off against his former Waratahs mentee, Tolu Latu, replacing Heath Tessman in the 49th minute and instantly making an impact in the front row.

Errors crept in for the visitors, with the usually reliable Dane Haylett-Petty dropping a basic high ball in the 62nd minute giving the Waratahs some crucial territory.

Things got sloppy in the final 20 minutes, though the rain had all but cleared up, on a chopped-up Allianz Stadium surface.

A half-hour scoring deadlock was finally broken after the Force conceded a scrum penalty, with Robinson sealing a narrow win.

Rookie Force backrower Richard Hardwick sat out the final two minutes of the loss, carded for a lifting tackle on Israel Folau, as Robinson soaked every second out of the match to line up an ultimately missed penalty.

Waratahs captain Michael Hooper was keeping his assessment realistic post-match, describing the performance as 'average', speaking to FOX SPORTS.

RESULT

WARATAHS 19

Tries: Skelton

Cons: Robinson

Pens: Robinson 4

Yellow Card: Kepu

FORCE 13

Tries: Lance

Cons: Lance

Pens: Lance 2

Yellow card: Hardwick

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