MATCH REPORT: Waratahs go down in the West

Sat, May 18, 2024, 12:02 PM
Waratahs Media
by Waratahs Media
Lalakai Foketi looks for support.
Lalakai Foketi looks for support.

The NSW Waratahs have been defeated by the Western Force 27-7 at HBF Park.

Despite the club’s crippling injury toll, NSW started the match strongly and opened the scoring in just the seventh minute when fullback Mark Nawaqanitawase hit a hole off a lovely pass from inside centre Lalakai Foketi.

Will Harrison converted to take the Waratahs’ lead out to seven.

The Force hit back 10 minutes later when former Tahs Ben Donaldson and Kurtley Beale combined to send outside centre Bayley Kuenzle over. Donaldson’s conversion levelled the scores.

The home side then hit the front through a penalty goal to Donaldson, before the flyhalf added a try of his own for good measure in the 20th minute after supporting a break by another former Tah in Will Harris.

A further penalty goal by Donaldson on the stroke of half-time gave the Force a commanding 20-7 lead at the break.

The Waratahs rallied in the second stanza and were brave in defence, repelling multiple attacking raids from the Force.

The already dire front row stocks unfortunately took a further blow when Lewis Ponini left the field in the 50th minute after a knock to his shin, and then inspirational openside flanker Charlie Gamble was forced to leave the field with an HIA.

To make matters worse, interchange prop Brad Amituanai was issued a yellow card in the 66th minute and the Force capitalised on their one-man advantage two minutes later through Number 8 Reed Prinsep.

Prinsep’s try ultimately sealed a 27-7 victory for the Force.

Captain Jake Gordon, who celebrated his 100th match for NSW tonight, was disappointed with the team’s performance but took nothing away from the Force.

“I thought the Force were great tonight,” Gordon said. “They were energetic around the park and when they got their opportunities they took them.

“They put a lot of heat on the breakdown, and we weren’t clinical enough at all. The amount of time we turned the ball over in the first or second phase… it wasn’t a good night for us.

“We just looked off the pace and we couldn’t stay with them.”

Wholehearted forward Hugh Sinclair agreed with Gordon, praising the Force but rueing the Waratahs inability to apply any consistent pressure through a lack of ball control.

“They had a strangle on us,” lamented Sinclair. “Their defensive breakdown was solid. They got in our face, and we turned the ball over a lot. We just couldn’t string stuff together in attack.

“But credit to them they played well. They’re always hard to beat over here and credit to them they strangled us and played much better.

“We were just too slow in the first half, and we couldn’t put any pressure on. If you can’t do that you’re going to get punished in Super Rugby. They’re a solid team and they work well together.

“We’ve got to be better.”

Despite hurting from the defeat, Gordon was proud of reaching a memorable career milestone.

“It’s pretty cool to reach my 100th. You make your debut, and you try and get to 50 and then you almost think the 100th will never come but it does.

“You think about all the times you thought you weren’t good enough or never going to make it. I sort of reflected on that on the way here on the bus.

“It’s something that I always wanted to achieve, and I didn’t know if it was possible but to finally be able to do that means a lot.”

Western Force 27

Tries: Bayley Kuenzle, Ben Donaldson, Reed Prinsep

Goals: Ben Donaldson 3/3

Penalty Goals: Ben Donaldson 2/2

NSW Waratahs 7

Tries: Mark Nawaqanitawase

Goals: Will Harrison 1/1

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