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Tahs still dream of being a finals force

Date

Georgina Robinson

Force 18 Waratahs 23

Tom Kingston of the Waratahs dives for a try after a counter-attacking move.

Tom Kingston of the Waratahs dives for a try after a counter-attacking move. Photo: Getty Images

THE WARATAHS have kept alive their Super Rugby finals hopes after surviving a thrilling second-half surge from the Western Force in Perth last night.

MATCH STATS

The visitors, still smarting from their one-point loss to the Force in Sydney a month ago, scored the only try of the first half and dominated possession before surrendering a 14-point lead in the second half to trail with 20 minutes to go.

Sekope Kepu of the Waratahs gets tackled by Matt Hodgson. Click for more photos

Waratahs stand tall in west

The NSW Waratahs survived a fightback from the Western Force to stay in the hunt for the Super Rugby finals. Photo: Getty Images

It was a near repeat performance of the Waratahs' capitulation to the Chiefs a fortnight earlier. They surrendered a comfortable lead in the first few minutes of the second stanza to end up trailing the Force by a point with 20 minutes to go.

Two offside penalties let the home side back in before five-eighth Berrick Barnes clawed back a two-point lead, then extended it to five with two penalty kicks as coach Michael Foley began deploying the reserves.

A first-half try to Tom Kingston and an easy five points off the lineout from Dave Dennis early in the second half turned out to be enough of a buffer, but only just.

The Waratahs' defence, commanding and patient in the first half, struggled once it occurred to the Force running straight and narrow had not worked for the first 40 minutes and probably would not work for the final 40.

The third-placed Australian side began spreading it wide to gain territory and the home side's forwards were superb at the pick and go, sending veteran halfback Brett Sheehan over for the side's first five points of the game. Dave Harvey failed to convert but another concerted attack from the Force led to fullback Alfie Mafi bolting over to put the side within two points of their foes after Harvey nailed his next conversion attempt.

Momentum had well and truly turned against the visitors, who were limited to little more than 20 per cent of possession in the opening 20 minutes of the second half.

A penalty kick put the Force into the lead before Barnes's calm boot edged the Waratahs apoint in front. He missed the next kick but made it 23-18 soon after.

The reserve players proved a life-saving injection for the Waratahs. Sarel Pretorius was instrumental in setting up winger Adam Ashley-Cooper for what looked to be a certain try before he was tackled around the neck by replacement Kieran Longbottom, which led to Barnes's match-saving penalty kick.

The Timani brothers had the desired impact up front after replacing Kane Douglas and Wycliff Palu.

Waratahs coach Michael Foley was pleased with the win.

"We trained very hard over the last two weeks," he said.

"The guys were disappointed not performing against the Chiefs and they worked very, very hard in training and I think to come out after a bye is always a difficult thing. To have a week off probably helped us in the end to finish stronger than the Force, who obviously played last week.

"I think we played some really good rugby in the first 40 minutes but there were a couple of decisions we made that let them back in the game at crucial times in that third 20 minutes of the match."

Waratahs captain Benn Robinson said errors nearly cost his team victory.

''Another tough night, the Force played such a strong game and we had silly errors in the second half,'' he said. "Foles mentioned before that that third quarter was very tough for us, there was times out there we gave away some silly penalties - that's definitely not through any lack of effort there - but a few decisions that we made there that put them back on the front foot."

It was a complete turnaround from the first half, when the visitors spent countless minutes inside the Force's 22 but failed to capitalise on the territory domination, much like the loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton.

The Waratahs went into the dressing rooms seven points ahead at the break but had plenty of opportunities to be further in front. A patient extended phase of play right in front of the Force's posts came to nothing despite penalty after penalty against Force prop Salesi Ma'afu, who was eventually yellow-carded for infringements at the scrum.

The Waratahs scored first after the break before things looked like they might unravel. The difference this week might have been that loss to the Chiefs.

Their season lives on because of it.

NSW WARATAHS 23 (Dave Dennis, Tom Kingston tries Brendan McKibbin 2 cons Berrick Barnes 2, McKibbin pens) bt WESTERN FORCE 18 (Alfie Mafi, Brett Sheehan tries David Harvey con 2 pens) at nib Stadium. Referee: Glen Jackson. Crowd: 12,838.

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Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
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BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
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BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
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Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
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HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
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Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
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Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
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Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
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Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
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CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
WAR 23 vs BLU 11 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
BUL 31 vs CRU 19 Report Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
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Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
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FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
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Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
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Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
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HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
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Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
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Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
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STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
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Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
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Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
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Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
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Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
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Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
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RED vs SHA 20:40SS
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Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
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HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
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Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
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Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
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BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
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Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
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Round 20
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Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
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Brumbies 6 4 2 0 73 20
Sharks 7 4 3 0 11 19
Chiefs 7 5 2 0 46 24
Bulls 6 4 2 0 24 18
Waratahs 6 4 2 0 36 18
Highlanders 6 4 2 0 22 20
Stormers 6 4 2 0 15 16
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