How big were the hearts of those Western Force players to fight for a 20-16 win with just 14 men for the final period against the NSW Waratahs?
It was a huge result in Sydney because the Force have done it tough after playing all their games on the road in Super Rugby AU last year.
1. Sevens grad a force
There were plenty of whispers out of the Western Force camp during pre-season training that Tim Anstee’s explosive pace kept surprising people.
Well, we saw how spectacularly the Aussie Sevens star could transfer it to the 15-a-side game at blindside flanker on Friday night.
In the first half, Anstee, 23, blasted through the line, beat two defenders with his long striding charge and fed a perfect pass for standout lock Fergus Lee-Warner to score.
In the second half, Anstee was fed a fine ball off the top of the lineout. As a 1.91m halfback, he swept swiftly around the back of the lineout and exploded at the tryline right through a solid Lachie Swinton hit.
Top marks. We might just have seen the start of a transition from sevens to XVs every bit as good as that made by 2015 World Cup trump Sean McMahon.
2. Positive positional switch
Shifting Mark Nawaqanitawase from wing to fullback really got him far more involved in attack for the Waratahs.
He wasn’t just leaping to grab kicks to get his team on the front foot but using a neat shuffle step to pierce the line.
Wallaby Jordan Petaia has been more judicious this season by cutting down needlessly risky flick passes. Nawaqanitawase must now learn that because twice poor flick passes cost the Waratahs.
He also won admiration for a banana kick that made 40m up the sideline.
3. Ageless former Test stars
Former All Black Richard Kahui is a quality figure at the Force. He may be 35 but all he put in to last night’s result was superb.
In the pulsating second half, centre Kahui won a forced penalty when in position over the tackled Tane Edmed when the Waratahs were on attack in the Force quarter.
It was a huge play with the Force down to 14 men at the time. Irish fullback Rob Kearney, 34, and former Wallabies prop Greg Holmes, 37, did their bit too to break the drought for the Force.
4. Better from the Waratahs
There was significant improvement in the Waratahs’ defence and grit in this one after giving up 61 points against the Brumbies a week earlier.
The best example came early in the second half when three Waratahs, Alex Newsome, James Ramm and Tepai Moeroa, crashed Force winger Byron Ralston over the touchline.
What killed the ‘Tahs were critical mistakes, be it a poor flick pass, Ramm losing control of the ball in the open or impressive hooker Dave Porecki having the ball ripped out of his arms by Tomas Cubelli just before the tryline.
5. Switching in the halves
The Force got a positive result by backing Jake McIntyre at No.10. He consistently made little rushes with the ball to help get his side onto the front foot.
How the Force juggle their halfback-No.10 pairing is far from set in stone.
It’s McIntyre and Argentinian Cubelli for now but with Jono Lance and Ian Prior pressing.
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