The Waratahs put the game out of reach inside 15 minutes, blitzing the Western Force as they produced a 41-24 victory at HBF Park.
Whilst the hosts showed great fight to get back into the contest, the Waratahs had too much firepower and closed out the game in the second half to take some major momentum into the Super Round.
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So what did we learn from the match?
1.Over before it started
The Waratahs stunned the Force in the early 15 minutes with a brutal, high-paced ambush.
Mark Nawaqanitawase’s intercept set them in motions as they overwhelmed the battered hosts, largely thanks to the rapid speed their forwards were recycling the ball phase-by-phase.
Three tries in eight minutes, capped off by one of the simplest tries you will see to Michael Hooper, silenced the crowd and put the game out of reach.
Even if the Force arguably were the better side for the rest of the game outside of a ten minute period, the visitors were ruthless when they entered the 22 and ultimately shut out the game with another quick burst of two tries.
Tane Edmed continues to showcase the ridiculous depth at flyhalf for the Waratahs.
Considered their third-best option at the start of the year, the Eastwood product has more than taken his opportunity with Donaldson and Harrison out, once again producing a near man-of-the-match.
His break and awareness to find Lalakai Foekti was perfect, along with his lovely floating ball to put Alex Newsome in the corner.
There are still plenty of improvements in him, struggling at times to clear his line, but he showed enough glimpses with his penalty kick inside 5 meters to set up Dave Porecki.
Its sets up an interesting three-way battle heading into the future, with Will Harrison sparking their attack off the bench at fullback, producing a nice offload that resulted in Newsome’s double.
3.On the back foot
You have to feel for the Force, struck down with injury and illness before the game had even started.
Already missing coach Tim Sampson and star recruits Izack Rodda and Issak Fines-Leleiwasa in COVID isolation, they were joined on the guidelines by captain Feleti Kaitu’u (calf), Jeremy Thrush (soreness), Bayley Kuenzle (gastro), and Toni Pulu (concussion)
The Force looked like a team down half a dozen starters, all at sea in the first 20 minutes as the Waratahs ran riot.
Tim Sampson will take confidence out of his side’s refusal to give up, putting them in a good stead to bounce back against Moana Pasifika.
Charlie Gamble and Michael Hooper are already building a deadly combination in the back-row, electric in their first start together.
Gamble’s work over the ball is elite, earning a number of key turnovers, including one just before the half to stifle the Force’s momentum.
It allows Hooper to float across the defensive line and pick his moments, at his typical best in his first start in 20 months as he led the tackle counter and earned man-of-the-match honors.
Whilst we’re not at full Pooper levels of open side dominance yet, there’s plenty to be excited about for Waratahs fans
5. Defensive class
Whilst the early attacking rampage will dominate the highlights, Darren Coleman was more pleased after the game with the incredible defensive effort to hold out the Force in the 34th minute.
The hosts put together over 25 phases of attack after Reesjan Pasitoa’s try, throwing everything at a scrambling Waratahs defense to try and flip momentum.
In the end, some picture perfect counter-rucking from the Waratahs pack forced the breach, with Gamble repelling another attack three minutes later with some great pilfering.
Also, it was interesting to see the advantage end so soon after Mark Nawaqanitawase’s high tackle on Richard Kahui. It’s something that differs remarkably ref-to-ref, getting to a stage where World Rugby needs to introduce some sort of guidelines just to ensure some level of consistency across the board