The New South Wales Waratahs held off a stirring Western Force fightback to secure a 23-18 victory in their Super Rugby match in Perth, Australia, on Friday.
Tries from Tom Kingston and Dave Dennis gave the visitors a 17-3 lead, but the Force battled back to take the lead briefly and by the end, the Waratahs were hanging on.
The Force scored two tries through Brett Sheehan and Alfie Mafi in the second half, but will rue the start they gave to the Waratahs as they fell to yet another close defeat.
“It was a tough night,” Waratahs captain Benn Robinson said in a pitchside interview. “Early on in the second half, we made some silly errors and let them back into the game.”
The first half featured plenty of tactical kicking, collapsing scrums and sloppy errors, but the Waratahs produced a moment of genuine class with the opening try in the 24th minute.
Coming from a turnover deep in their own half, the ball passed through five pairs of hands before flying winger Kingston raced down the touchline to score his fourth try in the last four matches.
The Waratahs laid siege to the home line in search of a second try for a full five minutes before halftime, but were unable to breach the Force’s defense and went in 10-3 up.
The Force were still a man down two minutes after the restart having had prop Salesi Ma’afu sin-binned for collapsing the scrum when flanker Dennis came storming round the front of the line-out to dash 30m to score.
The Force finally got across the Waratahs line when scrumhalf Sheehan scored against his former team under a pile of bodies after 51 minutes to cut the deficit to 17-8.
Now it was the home side’s turn to lay siege to their opponents’ line and, once Waratahs fullback Bernard Foley had been shown a yellow card, a quick ball out to the wing allowed fullback Mafi to cross untouched.
David Harvey kicked his second penalty after 64 minutes to put the Force in front for the first time, but the lead lasted just 60 seconds before Berrick Barnes put the Waratahs back ahead with his first.
The Wallabies flyhalf added another three points five minutes from the end and the Waratahs survived a late flurry to take their third win in seven matches this season.