The New South Wales Waratahs kicked off their 2017 Super Rugby campaign with a come from behind 19-13 victory over Perth’s Western Force at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
Both teams could only score one try each and the difference came down to kicking opportunities with Reece Robinson kicking five of his six attempts.
The 2014 Super Rugby Champion Waratahs trailed 9-13 at half time but took the lead four minutes later with a try from Wallabies international Will Skelton.
The Force scored the only try of the first half with Jono Lance scoring 13 points to have the men from the West leading 13-9 at the break.
Although the Force couldn’t trouble the scorers in the second half as the Waratahs came back to claim a well-deserved four point victory.
Captain Heath Tessmann says missed opportunities cost the Force in the second half but believes there is plenty to build on for the coming weeks.
“We let the Waratahs get a bit of momentum back on us,” he said.
“We probably weren’t as clinical when we were attacking as we could have been and that gave them a few opportunities to get back up the field.”
“We were very happy with our scrum and our set piece for the most part but our lineout did let us down in the second half.
“As disappointed as we are in that result we can see positives. We had a bunch of Super Rugby and Western Force debuts. Our young backrow stood up really well and we had a completely new backline that worked well in tough conditions.
“Now we are just looking forward to getting back home, learning from this and getting ready for the Reds.”
The ‘Tahs got on the board quickly with a penalty against the attacking team in the opening minute and Reece Robinson slotted the penalty for an early 3-0 lead.
With ill-discipline hurting the Force in the opening minutes the Waratahs took full advantage with Robinson slotting his second penalty of the contest to have the home side in front 6-0 after 10 minutes of play.
On their first venture inside the Waratahs 22 the Western Force applied massive pressure to earn a penalty and kicked for touch to force a lineout five metres from the line.
A second collapsed maul in succession saw Sekope Kepu sent to the bin for 10 minutes.
Locking the ball in the Waratahs’ 22 the Force made an attacking scrum count, driving the Waratahs back before Richard Hardwick offloaded to Ryan Louwrens who hit Jono Lance running a beautiful line to score next to the posts.
Lance converted his own try to have the Force leading 7-6 after 27 minutes.
The Waratahs answered back quickly with Tolu Latu earning a penalty at the breakdown just outside the 22. Robinson made no mistake to put the New South Welshmen back in front 9-7.
Jono Lance answered back with penalty of his own to regain the ascendency and when Kane Koteka got over the ball at the breakdown to earn a penalty Lance again stepped up to hand the Force a 13-9 lead at the halftime interval.
The Waratahs started the second half strongly going deep into the Force 22 and taking a quick tap for Will Skelton to barrel over from short range. Robinson hit the conversion to push the home side back in front 16-13.
The Waratahs controlled possession and territory through the first 15 minutes of the second half but the Force stood firm to hold the home side out on multiple occasions including holding the ball up over the line.
With the slippery conditions wreaking havoc forcing multiple knock ons from both sides the game took on a true forward mentality with the vast majority of play though the big men leaving little opportunities for the backs to throw the ball around.
Points were hard to come by the in the second half but the Waratahs found three more through the boot of Reece Robinson thanks to a penalty at scrum time.
Inability to keep the ball in hand and get into a dangerous attacking position cost the Force in the second half as they were unable to add to their half time score.
Next week the Western Force host Queensland’s Reds in Perth while the Waratahs fly to Johannesburg South Africa where they will play last year’s finalists the Lions.
Final Score Waratahs 19 (9) Western Force 13 (13)
Tries – W.Skelton
Pen – R.Robinson 4
Con – R.Robinson
Cards – S.Kepu (22nd min yellow)
Tries – J.Lance
Pen – J.Lance 2
Con – J.Lance
Cards – R.Hardwick( 79th min yellow)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1:Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 2:Will Houston
TMO :Ian Smith
15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 David Lolohea, 19 David McDuling, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro
15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Heath Tessmann (c), 1 Pek Cowan
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Isireli Naisarani, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Alex Newsome