Force punish Tahs to march on
Force punish Tahs to march onSHARE
The Western Force beat the Waratahs 28-16 in Perth on Saturday to extend their record unbeaten Super Rugby run to five matches.
It's a small union at the isolated west of Australia with a small rugby population and player base, pleased with a crowd of 14 281 to watch them play the Waratahs at home in Perth. It may all be small but the spirit is gigantic. Ordinary men become heroes, as they did on this night of a famous victory and the crowd sounded like hundreds of thousands in their enthusiastic support and noisy pride at what their heroes achieved.
The Waratah pack was 60 kg heavier but somehow the Force hung in at scrum time and then won the battle of defence vs attack. They won the defence comprehensively, tackling heroically, winning turnovers, forcing a stream of handling errors by the jittery Waratahs.
And then they swooped on half chances to score. The Waratahs had the possession and territory but the Force scored the tries – three to one, all three by the opportunistic left wing, Nick Cummins, the man they call the Honeybadger, the crazy, fearless thief which feeds wherever it comes across a feeding opportunity.
And this was Nick Cummins in Perth on Saturday evening – with a try from an intercept, a try from a dropped pass and a more conventional pass when Alby Mathewson sent him over for one of his hat-trick tries – the third Western Force player to score a hat-trick in a Super Rugby match after Scott Staniforth and Cameron Shepherd.
Forget statistics, look at the scoreboard and know that the Force deserved to beat their unwise opponents from the East.
Both sides started with late changes to fullbacks. The Australian Rugby Union aroused the ire of coach Michael Cheika – not a difficult operation – by withdrawing Israel Folau. Then Jayden Hayward was forced out just before the match and the Force were forced to inspan Dane Haylett-Petty who at the time was playing for his club Cottesloe, and he had a fine game.
This was a typical Aussie derby with lots of niggle and silly aggressive posturing and it could have cost the Force dearly. They kicked off and Tatafu Polota Nau was penalised in an eminently kickable position but Matt Hodgson was cross with Polota Nau and pushed him in the face. The referee reversed the penalty.
The Waratahs were the first to score when Kurtley Beale kicked two penalties in two minutes, one against Angus Cottrell and one against Hodgson, and the visitors led 6-0 after 10 minutes.
Sias Ebersohn reduced the lead when Kane Douglas was offside.
At this stage the Waratahs were well on top. They benefited by penalties conceded by the Force, from scrums that were a mess and from line-outs. But those Force loosies won the tackles.
The Waratahs were well on top and within centimetres of the goal-line when massive Will Skelton went on the charge and Bernard Foley carried it on. They turned a kickable penalty into a five-metre line-out and bashed some more with Jacques Potgieter driving at an upright. but then sad-faced Nick Phipps passed to his right and about five metres from his line the Honeybadger intercepted the pass and went striding smoothly away for a try under the Waratah posts. How the people of Perth loved their ratel.
Ebersohn converted and the Force led 10-6 after 26 minutes. They did not lose their lead.
Beale had missed a kick at goal and Foley took over the kicking duties. When the Force were penalised at another fallen scrum, Foley made it 10-9.
Adam Ashley-Cooper, a centre who runs straighter than most Waratah backs, scorched through a gap and gave to Foley but Polota Nau was penalised at the tackle. Then Michael Hooper charged shoulder first into a ruck and Ebersohn made it 13-9 on the stroke of half-time.
At the start of the second half the Waratahs thought they had scored a try when they went left and Cammy Crawford came in to take a sharp pass from Foley. The tall wing cut between Mathewson and Ebersohn and flashed over near the posts. The referee and the TMO examined the situation and instead of awarding a try they penalised Jono Lance for obstruction on Mathewson.
Mathewson set up the second Force try with an electric break past three Waratah forwards. He raced down the midfield and gave a perfect pass to Cummins on his left. Cummins raced the 20 metres to score on the left. 18-9 after 50 minutes.
Now the Waratahs pummelled the Force defences but somehow, heroically, the defence held on. Hodgson won a turnover but Mathewson was forced to yield a five-metre scrum – and then limped off with a wonky ankle.. The Waratahs had a five-metre scrum but were freekicked. After a penalty they again bashed close – Shelton and Paddy Ryan but, with Brynard Stander in the van, the Force kept them out.
Going right the Waratahs swept on attack but Beale's pass to Crawford was a poor one which Crawford could not pick up but Cummins could. He snatched it up and raced away as Crawford turned in pursuit. From behind Crawford knocked Cummins over but, not held, Cummins stood up and as he was tackled he grounded the ball in the left corner. From touch Ebersohn converted. 25-9 with 19 minutes to play.
The Waratahs went through phases, running straight for a change, and on an overlap Beale took a pass from Foley and scored in the left corner. 25-16 with 14 minutes to play.
The Waratahs neglected the ball at the back of their scrum but Stander picked it up and charged ahead where he was tackled and Foley was penalised. 28-16 with five minutes to play.
Tyler Gray had an excellent break but lost the ball in a tackle, which seemed to epitomise the Waratahs' efforts on the night. They team that had won 43-21 in Sydney lost 28-16 in Perth.
Man of the Match: There are several Force candidates but our choice is the captain for his relentless bravery and efficiency at tackle time and for the sort of leadership that can inspire this sort of victory – Matt Hodgson.
For the Western Force:
Tries: Cummins 3
Cons: Ebersohn 2
Pens: Ebersohn 3
For the Waratahs:
Pens: Beale 2, Foley
Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Chris Tuatara-Morrison.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Jono Lance, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Dave Dennis (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Tyler Gray, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Matt Carraro.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)