Waratahs vs Force: Five things we learned

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs clinched a come-from-behind win over the Force at the SCG on Saturday night.

What are we talking about after that?

1. Waratahs win with guts

The Waratahs can breathe a big sigh of relief after that one, and probably take a dose of optimism as well.

While the Force have had their critics and the Waratahs on paper should be a better side as a regular Super Rugby outfit, they were genuinely on the ropes early in the match.

That they were able to turn that around and keep the Force largely out of their 22 for the final 40 and rack up 23 unanswered points will 

They face the Brumbies next weekend and that will present a whole other level of challenge but Waratahs captain Rob Simmons was accurate in his comments about the progress they made with that result.

”It's a stepping stone , it's very important but it's what we do with it now moving forward," he said.

"We have a very talented team, but they're all very young, it throws me back to 2009 and 2010 at the Reds, we had a lot of young talent coming through, very enthusiastic, just loved playing, we probably overplayed our hands a lot but we came into some good game management post-that and was quite successful.”

2. Force start with some promise

The Western Force came into this competition as rank outsiders after three years in the Super Rugby wilderness and they’ve been vocal about their desire to prove a point.

It didn’t take them long to do just that, outpointing the Waratahs in the opening half hour particularly.

This effort went beyond emotion, with the Force showing off some of their talent young and old, albeit against a patchy Waratahs side.

Ian Prior took the option to keep the scoreboard ticking over and that decision helped the Force heap the pressure on the Waratahs.

After half-time, they clearly faded and were unable to get themselves into any kind of attacking territory. 

Similarly to the Waratahs, the Force's big challenge will be trying to maintain their level heading into round three after an emotion-charged Super Rugby return.

Their first test is in just six days, when they'll head up to Brisbane to take on the Reds next week and Queensland will be fired up after a draw with the Rebels.

3. Business as usual for Hooper

Michael Hooper has been relatively quiet these last few months but when he crosses the white line, he does plenty of on-field talking.

The Waratahs flanker was unbelievable for NSW again at the SCG and earned big praise from his coach and captain post-match.

Finished with a mammoth 16 tackles and won four turnovers as well in what was a hugely influential performance.

On the other side of the ball, he had 12 carries and made 59 attacking metres.

Probably the most remarkable thing from his performance, though, is it still feels somewhat expected so high is the bar he has set over his career.

4. Lance steers the ship

Force flyhalf Jono Lance was among the most important players in the Force’s dominant opening half hour.

He and skipper Ian Prior combined well in the halves and outplayed their opponents through those first exchanges.

It’s easy to forget that Lance was on the verge of a Wallabies berth in 2016 before injuries and a stint overseas dimmed talk of a Test berth.

While it’s a little early to be picking any Wallabies sides, Lance gave everyone a good reminder of his skills with his impressive performance on Saturday night.

5. Simmons backs Tahs in

The Waratahs were in a 14-point hole when Rob Simmons turned down a shot at the posts and pointed to the corner.

It paid off in an Angus Bell try that was the first score of a 23-point unanswered run from the Waratahs.

While these decisions are always coloured by hindsight, it was a reflection that Simmons was confident to back the Waratahs’ set piece and it was an astute call from the captain.

The Waratahs nabbed seven points from that and went into half-time just a converted try down.

It was ultimately a major turning point in the game for NSW and sometimes you need to take those kinds of risks to get the biscuit.