Hodgson's high but where to now for Force

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Western Force sent as emphatic a message as they could muster in their final 2017 match, beating the Waratahs 40-11.

They have finished second in the Australian conference, eclipsing their biggest winning margin against NSW, previously 12,  and their biggest tally against their East Coast rivals.

A minute’s applause rang out from a 10,384 crowd in the seventh minute for retiring club legend Matt Hodgson, who has been the emotional face of the Force’s plight this year.

It was the same old story for the Waratahs, who have finished 2017 with their equal-worst win record, matching their four-win 2012 season, as sloppy defence and another sluggish start plagued them.


Though they had their own farewells, Saturday night was never really going to be about the Waratahs and that proved to be the case less than a minute in

It was hard not to see the night’s showers as a symbol of the grim Super Rugby year Australia has had, on and off the field.

Those conditions had an impact on the game, but it was the Waratahs who suffered most.

Rain couldn’t stop the Force from streaking away to notch the first try of the night in just 52 seconds, through Alex Newsome.

Things slowed down after that but the Force found themselves a man down with Waratahs halfback Jake Gordon sent to the bin in the 11th minute for offside.

The Force wasted no time in punishing the Waratahs, with  hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau scoring a pushover try.

A scrum penalty gave the Waratahs a chance for points and they opted to give Israel Folau a shot at goal from 50 metres, in a game where they looked to the sticks more often than they have for much of the year.

Foley had a second three-pointer just before the half-hour mark, slowly inching their way back into the game.

Things ground down as half-time approached, before the Force notched two in a row, through Marcel Brache’s chest grounding and a sprinting Jono Lance.

Matt Hodgson prepares for his final game. Photo: Getty ImagesHodgson added to his fairytale farewell just after half-time, scoring a five-pointer to blow the game open.

From then, the Force were entirely in control, as the Waratahs began to look sapped of energy, and Lance added two more penalties to his spectacular try.

A 75th-minute Hugh Roach try was little consolation for NSW, as they lurched to another loss.

Hodgson's fairytale was complete in the 80th minute, kicking the final penalty of the game, after they dominated the scrum.

The Force will leave nib Stadium, not sure of whether they will ever play there again, but ending 2017 on the best note they could.

RESULT

Force 40

Tries: Newsome, Polota-Nau, Brache, Lance, Hodgson

Cons: Grant 2, Lance

Pens: Lance 2, Hodgson

Waratahs 11

Tries: Roach

Pens: Foley 2

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