Huge heart. That’s the first thing to say about the Western Force hanging tough to pull off a great escape after the bell to beat the NSW Waratahs 31-30.
Going more than 20 phases to finally force a penalty was terrific composure in Perth.
Jim Tucker looks at what we learnt from a thriller.
1. STANDOUT HOOKER
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie made the calculated call this week to urge hookers and fullbacks to stand up for Test spots.
Force hooker Feleti Kaitu’u was certainly listening. He was all dreadlocks and zip when dashing over for the Force's second try and made several other strong charges.
His dynamism sets him apart from rival hookers in Australia. A strong low tackle on Lachie Swinton in the second half was quality too and he’s sustaining his impact in games for longer.
Lineout throwing and scrummaging are still the core skills he has to be judged on.
2. PERESE BACK TO HIS BEST AFTER THE WASTED YEARS
It’s hard to believe NSW Waratahs centre Izaia Perese is still just 23.
The performance against the Force was his best since returning to rugby from his wasted year in rugby league in 2019 and the off-field drama that followed early in 2020.
This was Perese with all the leg drive and determination that pinballed him through defenders when he first played for the Queensland Reds as a teenager.
Some code switches work, others backfire. Perese has fallen out of the pecking order he was in when taken on Wallabies tours as a project player for coach Michael Cheika.
It was great to see him again shrugging off defenders and getting so physically involved in putting the Waratahs on the front foot.
3. SEA OF BLUE GET A WIN WORTH WAITING FOR
The one-point cliffhanger was a superb way to deliver the Force’s loyal fans the first Super Rugby win in Perth for four years.
Two wins over the Waratahs in a single season is a sweet result for the Force.
The sea of blue in the stands were vocal and loving it.
It was great to see the fist-pumping emotion of veteran Greg Holmes, the united joy of the team at full-time and what it all meant.
4 NEW NO.10
Ben Donaldson stood up for the Waratahs at No.10 with an excellent game. He plays flatter at the line than Will Harrison and the Waratahs' attack had more flow to it.
He made an excellent off-load for the Jack Maddocks try and kicked extremely well off the tee.
The selection move was rewarded.
5. INSTANT HERO
Domingo Miotti started the season as the Force’s third-string No.10. Now he’s the toast of Force fans. The final shot at penalty goal was in front but he still had to pot it.
It shows the value of always taking your points because that field goal earlier in the game kept the scoreboard ticking.
His composure is one of his best features because he’s not a line-slicing attacker. Argentinian, Kiwi, English and Aussie flavours all came together in this win and don’t forget the bench. Ian Prior, Fergus Lee-Warner and Andrew Ready were high impact.
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