The Western Force have recorded their first Super Rugby AU win in 2021 with a thrilling four-point triumph at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney against the NSW Waratahs. The Force scored two tries to one in the 20-16 victory.
The home team opened the scoring in the sixth minute when they opted to kick for touch from a close-range penalty, securing a strong drive from the resulting lineout for hooker David Porecki to score a try. Flyhalf Will Harrison converted to give his team a 7-0 lead.
Harrison extended the Waratahs lead in the 14th minute, kicking a 40-metre penalty to move the score to 10-0. The hosts then capitalised through a penalty and stretched their lead to 13-0 with 23 minutes played.
The Force continued their direct approach and were rewarded for their dominance of possession in the 32nd minute when lock Jeremy Thrush and flanker Tim Anstee combined superbly to get behind the Waratahs defence and put lock Fergus Lee-Warner into space to score a try.
Flyhalf Jake McIntyre added the conversion to cut the deficit to six points at 13-7. He added a well-taken penalty three minutes later to further trim the Waratahs’ lead to 13-10, which remained the score at the half time break.
The Force continued to enjoy a wealth of possession in the second half and took the lead in the 54th minute when Anstee, who put in a Man of the Match performance, made a powerful charge from a quick lineout ball to score his first Super Rugby try. McIntyre added the extra two points to give the Force a 13-17 lead.
With 15 minutes to play, replacement hooker Andrew Ready was given his marching orders with a red card, leaving the Force a man down in the closing stages, but the visitors sustained control of proceedings with some vital defensive efforts.
The Waratahs, seeking to make the most of their numerical advantage, kicked a penalty through Harrison with seven minutes to play to make it a one-point game at 16-17.
With four minutes to play, the Force won a penalty after opting for a scrum from a free kick just outside the Waratahs 22. Replacement scrumhalf and captain Ian Prior kicked the crucial penalty to restore their four-point advantage at 16-20 to set up a grandstand finish.
The Force held strong to prevent the Waratahs attack in the final moments to seal a memorable and historic win for the club. Prior’s clutch penalty goal proved to be the decisive moment and certainly one to remember for the Sea of Blue around the country and abroad.
Experienced World Cup winner Richard Kahui and Force debutant Toni Pulu were immense throughout the contest, with Kahui proving pivotal on both ends of the field.
Head Coach Tim Sampson was thrilled with the result, as celebrations around the ground ensued.
“The guys have made a bit of history today. This was the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people at the club,” Sampson explained.
“You’ve got to celebrate and enjoy these moments. It was a pretty noisy changeroom after the game!”
Run-on captain Brynard Stander echoed Sampson’s thoughts.
“We can only build from here. We’re quite a new team together, and every week we take the opportunity to build a bit more. The boys deserve the win,” he said.
“There’s a lot of loyal supporters in WA, our Sea of Blue, and they’re behind us through thick and thin.”
The Force now travel back to Perth to host the Rebels in front of the Sea of Blue next Friday, 12 March with kick-off at 5:45pm.
Western Force – Tries: Fergus Lee-Warner, Tim Anstee. Conversions: Jake McIntyre (2). Penalties: McIntyre, Ian Prior.
Waratahs – Try: David Porecki. Conversion: Will Harrison. Penalties: Harrison (3).