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Waratahs overcome Force despite losing captain Gordon to injury pre-game

By AAP
(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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The NSW Waratahs have overcome the late withdrawal of skipper Jake Gordon to record a crucial 22-17 Super Rugby Pacific win over the Western Force in Sydney.

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Gordon was a last-minute scratching from the crunch match with a hamstring injury, but Jack Grant proved a worthy replacement at Leichhardt Oval, a ground the halfback’s father knows well.

James Grant was a Waratah himself before switching to rugby league and playing in Balmain’s famous 1989 grand final side along the likes of Wayne Pearce, Ben Elias and Steve Roach.

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The winger was envied for his foot speed but it was Jack Grant’s fast hands that blew Sunday’s game wide open on Sunday.

Grant’s crisp double cut-out pass for fullback Will Harrison earned the Waratahs their second try in the 40th minute and a decisive 22-7 halftime lead that the Force never really looked like pegging back after the break.

Until then, the Tahs had trouble finishing, despite creating several promising attacking chances.

Execution has been a problem all season so it was frustrating viewing for Waratahs fans when last passes from Izaia Perese and Alex Newsome went to ground with tries seemingly beckoning.

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The NSW forwards took matters into their own hands, with energetic flanker Charlie Gamble cashing in on driving maul to post the side’s first try in the 15th minute.

The Force had taken the early lead when winger Manasa Mataele broke the line all too easily to score and jolt the Waratahs into action.

But it took a steady stream of penalty goals from man-of-the-match Harrison for NSW to convert their heavy weight of territory and possession into any kind of scoreboard pressure – until Grant’s intervention.

The dour second half seemed destined to be a scoreless section until replacement Force prop Harry Lloyd crashed over late, then Ben Prior slotted a last-minute penalty goal to clinch a precious bonus point for the Force.

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Now 1-3 for the season, the Perth franchise’s finals hopes already look shaky, while the Waratahs improved to 2-2.

Both sides will need to improve markedly, though, to challenge the New Zealand teams in the second half of the competition.

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