February 26, 2017
The Waratahs were made to work hard before claiming a 19-13 victory over the Western Force in their Super Rugby opener in Sydney.
In a tightly contested affair, both sides crossed for a try apiece although on the balance of play the hosts deserve this result as they took control of proceedings as the game progressed while the Force went off the boil particularly during the second half.
The slippery underfoot conditions as a result of earlier rains in the day meant the teams battled to get going and both sides committed a plethora of handling errors which meant this was not an entertaining encounter.
With Bernard Foley withdrawing from this match due to a head knock earlier in the week, Reece Robinson took over the goalkicking duties for the Waratahs and the flyer impressed in his new role, finishing with a 14-point haul courtesy of four penalties and a conversion.
The opening quarter was a dour affair with hardly anything exciting to report as both sides delivered little enterprising play on attack.
The Waratahs held a slight edge during this period thanks to two penalties from Robinson inside the first 10 minutes.
The Sydneysiders suffered a setback in the 22nd minute, however, when Sekope Kepu was sent to the sin bin for deliberately collapsing a maul on his five-metre line.
The match came alive in the 27th minute when, after an extended period of play where they were camped inside the Waratahs' 22, the Force opened their account when Jono Lance crossed for a deserved try after running onto a pass from Ryan Louwrens close to the hosts' try-line.
Lance kicked the conversion which meant the Force held the lead but Robinson put his side back in front when he slotted his third penalty in the 34th minute.
That lead did not last long, however, as shortly afterwards Lance added two penalties in quick succession which meant the Force led 13-9 at the interval.
The Waratahs upped their game in the second half and five minutes into the half Will Skelton ran onto a pass from Nick Phipps deep inside the Force's 22 and burst through a couple of tackles before crashing over for his side's only try.
The rest of the match was a war of attrition as both sides battled to gain the ascendancy and we had to wait until the 74th minute for the next points to be scored when Robinson landed his fourth penalty.
The Force's frustrations were compounded five minutes later when Richard Hardwick was yellow-carded for a tip tackle on Israel Folau.
Robinson lined up a shot at goal from the resulting penalty and although he was off target, the final whistle went shortly afterwards.
Pens: Robinson 4
Yellow Card: Kepu
For Western Force:
Pens: Lance 2
Yellow Card: Hardwick
Waratahs: 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
Western Force: 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
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner, Will Houston
TMO: Ian Smith