'Huge for us': Tahs make Force pay for errors to record back to back wins for the first time since 2019

Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

The Waratahs have defeated the Western Force 28-8 on the Gold Coast to temporarily move into second spot on the Super Rugby standings.

By doing so Rob Penney's men recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since March, 2019, to continue their rise under the New Zealand coach.

The 20-point win made it a night to remember for incumbent Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, who became the youngest player (28 years, 290 days) in Super Rugby history to play 150 matches.

Outside backs Alex Newsome and Jack Maddocks crossed either side of half-time for the Waratahs as the men from NSW feasted on the Force's mistakes.

Both their tries came from Force errors, with winger Newsome scoring a couple of phases after a handling error from Jono Lance in the 34th minute.

After taking a 16-8 lead into half-time, Jack Maddocks then extended the lead after intercepting an attempted Lance cut out pass in the 44th minute.

The Force looked like they had hit back in the 53rd minute when Henry Stowers looked to have scored after yet another dominant scrum on the Waratahs' line. But an incredible defensive effort from Jake Gordon prevented the try when the Force had dominance at the scrum.

Awarded another penalty at the scrum, the Force looked to repeat the effort but Wallabies prop Tom Robertson won the Waratahs a penalty in the 57th minute.

It was a defining moment of the game and one that didn't go unnoticed by his teammates.

A late try to Harry Johnson-Holmes iced the match, with the tight-head prop burrowing over from close range.

"That's huge for us," returning skipper Rob Simmons said.

"We addressed that we hadn't won two games in a row since March, 2019, to overcome."

Fly-half Will Harrison was faultless from the kicking tee as the 21-year-old became the third player in Waratahs history to score more than 100 points in his debut season following in the footsteps of Matt Burke and Peter Hewat.

The Force will rule another one that got away.

After taking an early lead through back-rower Brynard Stander, who dived on a beautiful grubber from Kiwi international Richard Kahui to score in the 14th minute, the Force burned a number of opportunities.

All night the Force's lineout struggled, with hookers Feleti Kaitu'u and Andrew Ready both failing to hit the mark.

Test centre Kyle Godwin was one of the Force's best while fullback Jake Strachan was impressive on debut.

Force captain Ian Prior rued his side's inability to come away with points after a series of scrum penalties early in the second half. 

"It was obviously a very physically encounter," Prior said.

"The Waratahs defended really well and put us under a bit of pressure there, which is a credit to them.

"I thought we built some nice momentum here and there. Probably a bit unlucky at the scrums in the 22 not to come away with points and that really swung the game in the end."

Early on and both sides went blow for blow.

Harrison opened the scoring after eight minutes with a long-range penalty as the Force were pinged for offside.

Some quick ball from Prior at half-back allowed Kahui to put the ball on the toe and get in behind the Waratahs defence as Stander dived over out wide.

Both sides then traded penalties.

But it was Newsome's try in the 34rd minute which was the first significant blow as the winger made Lance pay for spilling a ball out in front. From the error the Waratahs spread the ball wide to Lalakai Foketi who sliced through and found Gordon. One phase later and Maddocks fired a long ball to his winger to score.

The Waratahs looked like they would make it two in quick succession, but some gallant defence saw the Force hold Simmons up over the line after 25 tries.

Maddocks' intercept four minutes after half-time summed up the Force's night. Only moments earlier Godwin had broken free but chipped ahead for himself to hand over possession when he should have hung onto the ball. Moments later and the Waratahs fullback intercepted out wide to run 60 metres to score and break the hearts of the Force.

The men from the west didn't die wondering, but will rue another night of missed opportunties.

The win saw the Waratahs move into second spot on Super Rugby AU on 15 points, one point clear of the Rebels (14) who take on the Reds (11) in Brisbane on Saturday night.