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27-unanswered Western Force points all but end Waratahs' hopes

By AAP
Ben Donaldson of the Force celebrates crossing for a try (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

The Western Force have all but ended the NSW Waratahs’ finals hopes and heaped more pressure on under-fire coach Darren Coleman with a 27-7 victory at HBF Park.

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The injury-hit Waratahs led 7-0 early in Saturday night’s Super Rugby Pacific match, but the Force piled on 27 unanswered points to snare back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

The Force thought they had secured a bonus point with a final-minute try, but replays showed Bayley Kuenzle had lost control of the ball while being tackled by three opponents in the corner.

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The home side had one more chance to snare the bonus point after the final siren, but the Waratahs’ defence held firm.

Fijian Drua’s 28-19 win over the Reds earlier in the day meant the Force started Saturday night’s match six points adrift of eighth spot.

Fixture
Super Rugby Pacific
Force
27 - 7
Full-time
Waratahs
All Stats and Data

They are now just two points behind Drua with games against the Reds (away) and Brumbies (home) to come. The last-placed Waratahs are nine points adrift of eighth spot.

It means they will need bonus-point wins against Moana Pasifika and the Reds – plus a host of other results to go their way – if they are to sneak into the finals.

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Coleman will have to wait until the end of the season to find out his coaching fate, but with just two wins to his name in 2024, he faces an uphill battle to keep his post.

The Waratahs, celebrating the 100-game milestone of skipper Jake Gordon, scored the opening try of the match via fullback Mark Nawaqanitawase in the seventh minute. But the rest of the half belonged to the Force as they piled on 20 unanswered points to take a 20-7 lead into the break.

Their first try came via a sweet backline move, with Hamish Stewart, Ben Donaldson and Kurtley Beale all dishing off quick passes on the charge to set up Kuenzle. Donaldson scored the Force’s second try in the 20th minute following a line-busting run from flanker Will Harris.

Both teams were guilty of committing simple errors during the first half. Donaldson’s kick for touch after a penalty ended up being a shank that was cut off by an opponent.

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Another key mistake came on the stroke of half-time when Waratahs winger Triston Reilly fumbled Stewart’s huge torpedo.

A penalty against the Waratahs in the ensuing scrum gifted Donaldson three points via an after-the-siren kick, ensuring the Force had all the momentum going into half-time.

The Waratahs’ prop stocks were already threadbare entering the match, and they suffered another blow in the 51st minute when Lewis Ponini limped off.

Kuenzle pulled off a crucial double tackle in the 65th minute to deny the Waratahs a try-scoring opportunity on the wing. The Waratahs’ victory hopes were all but killed off a minute later when Brad Amituanai was handed a yellow card.

A powerful Force scrum set up Reed Prinsep for a 69th-minute try, but the home side couldn’t do enough to get what would have been a crucial bonus point.

Super Rugby Pacific

P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Blues
12
11
1
0
50
2
Hurricanes
12
10
2
0
47
3
Brumbies
12
10
2
0
43
4
Chiefs
12
9
3
0
42
5
Reds
12
6
6
0
31
6
Rebels
12
5
7
0
26
7
Highlanders
12
5
7
0
23
8
Fijian Drua
12
5
7
0
21
9
Force
12
4
8
0
19
10
Crusaders
12
2
10
0
15
11
Moana Pasifika
12
3
9
0
14
12
Waratahs
12
2
10
0
12
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Flankly 11 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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