Watertight defence the hallmark for victory against Western Force.
The New South Wales Waratahs kept their slim Super 15 finals hopes alive with a 28-13 win over the Western Force in Perth on Sunday.
Despite being without several players due to Wallabies duties and injury, the Waratahs set up the win by running in three tries in the first half on the way to their eighth win of the season.
Up 22-8 at half-time, the defensive resilience of the Waratahs ensured they secured the win, despite the Force enjoying the lion’s share of possession and territory in the second half.
The Waratahs were denied a bonus point fourth try with the final play of the match by the narrowest margin possible, the video referee ruling Peter Betham lost control of the ball just as he reached over in the corner.
The home team scored the only try of the second half to revive their hopes of a comeback, but paid the price for failing to take opportunities, both with ball in hand and with the boot.
The Force, who raised the ire of the British and Irish Lions when they played a second-string team in the tour match during the week so they could field their best side against the Waratahs, spent long periods camped in the Waratahs’ 22 for little reward.
They should have been closer on the scoreboard in the last 20 minutes of the game, but kicker Jayden Hayward was struggling in slippery conditions, missing two penalties and a conversion from his four scoring attempts during the match.
That was eight points squandered and it proved crucial after the Force’s Kyle Godwin scored the only try of the second half to narrow the margin to nine points, 22-13, in the 63rd minute.
Hayward missed the conversion and the Waratahs then scored successive penalties through Brendan McKibbin (66th minute) and Bernard Foley (75th) to seal the win.
With 10 players away on Wallabies duties, Waratahs captain Tom Carter said it was one of the best wins of his career.
“That typifies the effort we have put in all year,” he said. “It is one of the best wins I have ever had.”
Force skipper Pek Cowan dismissed suggestions that his team underestimated the Waratahs, saying they lost because of poor execution.
“We created a lot of opportunities but weren’t able to execute,” he said. “We are very disappointed with that.”
The visitors had got off to a great start, with former Force player Ollie Atkins, in his debut for the Waratahs, pushing over for the game’s first try in the seventh minute.
A great chain of passes then ended with Cam Crawford diving over in the corner for the Waratahs’ second try in the 10th minute.
The Force struck back through Cowan in the 22nd minute.