Force kill off Waratahs’ final hopes once and for all as Donno comes back to haunt old side


As the Western Force kept their final hopes alive, Simon Cron’s men killed off the Waratahs once and for all by sealing a 27-7 win in Perth on Saturday night.

Despite conceding an early try, the Force scored 27 straight points and rarely looked troubled against a sloppy Waratahs side.

The victory was set up off the back of a starring role from Ben Donaldson in the first half, with the former Waratahs playmaker coming back to haunt his old side.

The incumbent Wallabies fly-half scored 17 points, including his side’s second try as he burst onto a ball from Will Harris to score midway through the second half and open up the match.

“I don’t know what he’s having for breakfast, so I might have to get on that,” said roommate and Force captain Jeremy Williams.

Ben Donaldson scored a try and bagged 17 points in the Force’s win over the Waratahs at HBF Park, on May 18, 2024. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

His fine performance came off the back of a forward pack that got complete dominance at the scrum.

Indeed, the Force won the penalty count 15-9 with replacement tight-head prop Bradley Amituanai shown a yellow card just moments after coming onto the field for Waratahs debutant and Argentine international Enrique Pieretto in the 65th minute.

But it wasn’t just the Waratahs’ ill-discipline that killed off their chances, with the visitors guilty of turning the ball over on 18 occasions.

Waratahs coach Darren Coleman could only sit back in his chair and run his hands through his hair as he witnessed his side’s tenth loss of the year, which has them pitted at the bottom of the standings.

“I thought the Force were good, put a lot of heat around the breakdown,” said Waratahs captain Jake Gordon following his 100th Super Rugby match.

“We weren’t clinical enough at all. The amount of time we turned the ball over first and second-phase, it’s just not good enough.”

Ben Donaldson puts one on his former club! #SuperRugbyPacific #FORvWAR

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 18, 2024

After a fast start to the match, where three tries were scored inside the opening 20 minutes, the match descended into a forgettable, error-riddled second half as both teams struggled to get their set-piece going.

Although the Force’s scrum had the clear ascendency, both hookers struggled with their throws while both sides regularly turned the ball over.

But it was the Force who showed enough and grabbed the bull by the horns in the opening half, with the home side’s backline clicking when the match was open for the taking.

After Mark Nawaqanitawase scored his first try of the year in the seventh minute, the Force responded quickly through Bayley Kuenzle as the versatile back finished off some tidy work from Donaldson and Beale.

Donaldson gave the Force the lead in the 17th minute, before storming onto a nice interchange of passes between Izack Rodda and Harris to score.

Coleman turned to his bench early by introducing the hard-running Langi Gleeson at the expensive of Miles Amatosero, but the move didn’t translate into points.

Then Donaldson extended the home side’s lead out to 13 points when he slotted a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

DAZZLIN’ @westernforce #SuperRugbyPacific #FORvWAR

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 18, 2024

Although the Waratahs started the second half by building more than a dozen phases together, the visitors barely fired a shot as the Force’s defensive line held firm.

It was the only time the Waratahs managed to find and continuity in the second half as their season blew up in smoke the longer the half went on.

After blowing several opportunities, Reed Princep eventually scored for the Force in the 69th minute to give the home side a chance of pushing for a bonus point win.

Kuenzle came close to scoring his second on the stroke of full-time, but the outside centre couldn’t ground the ball.

Nonetheless, the win saw the Force keep pace with the eighth-placed Drua, who earlier beat the Reds in Suva, and put pressure on the seventh-placed Highlanders.

It means the Force (19) trail the Drua (21) by two competition points and the Highlanders by a further two points heading into the final two matches of the regular season.

The Force finish the regular season by taking on the Reds in Brisbane, before hosting the Brumbies.

The Drua next week meanwhile travel to Dunedin to take on the Highlanders.

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