The Western Force’s Super Rugby Men’s U16s season has ended in a heavy 94-19 defeat to the ladder-leading NSW Waratahs at Forshaw Rugby Park in Sydney on Sunday afternoon.
The Force, who were already out of contention to qualify for next weekend’s Final, were always on the back foot, with the Tahs scoring five tries inside the opening quarter of an hour.
NSW finished up with a 14 tries to three scoreline, with scrum-half Angus Grover scoring a first-half treble, while Michael Gough also finished with three tries.
Despite the lopsided loss, there were some positives for the Force with last week’s best afield Ezekiel Jackson impressing with the side's first try, while fly-half Josiah Tanonef, Cassius Dougal and Chase Bunce had some bright moments and Hale School lock Paddy Woods was outstanding throughout.
Nedlands back Bunce along with Wanneroo front-rower Zane Wesley were rewarded with tries in a stronger Force second-half display, after trailing 59-0 at half-time, scoring all three tries in the second 35 and conceding five.
Waratahs outside centre Matthew Gough had a double inside seven minutes, crossing twice down the right side to open up a 12-0 lead. The Force offered a threat with Harry Oddy unable to get on the end of Tanonef’s grubber.
James Finegan’s offload set up Waratahs scrum-half Grover on the left side for NSW’s third try and they were clearly in the mood with Grover adding another after Onitoni Large’s step and go for 24-0.
Jackson, playing at inside centre in Peni Naqau’s absence, produced an excellent defensive tackle to force Gough outside to ease the pressure but the Tahs kept coming with Heamasi Makasini adding another down the left from Finegan’s draw and pass.
Force lock Joshua Harmer got within a whisker of the try-line in the 20th minute but lost the ball under a Jarvis Orr tackle, before the Waratahs transitioned with the explosive Large crossing for their sixth try.
Rex Bassingthwaighte burst out of the breakdown with a jinking run for the Waratahs’ seventh try after Oddy’s break. The elusive Bassingthwaighte scored again on the half hour from a quick line-out after Jackson’s clearing kick.
Grover completed his treble right on half-time with Jonty Fowler converting for a 59-0 lead at the break after the Force had bravely kept the Tahs at bay under pressure on their own try-line.
Keegan Daly forced his way over the try-line two minutes into the second half, before Super Rugby Men’s U16s leading try-scorer Tom Hartman strolled over for his first in the 41st minute. Hartman released Reilly Caswell down the right side for his first try of the day.
The Force enjoyed wave after wave of possession within 5m, with Jackson breaking through before Wesley was held up across the line. Nedlands talent Jackson got his reward in the 52nd minute with a try, charging straight through the Tahs’ defence after receiving out of scrum-half.
Both sides visibly tired as the game wore on as Finegan capitalized on a Force knock-on to score NSW’s 13th try, but the Force hit back again with Bunce pouncing on Caswell’s fumble to collect and race clear for the visitors’ second try.
Hartman and Gough combined in the 68th minute to complete the latter’s treble. The Force grabbed another consolation try from Wesley after pressure on the Tahs’ try-line.
Tries: Gough 3 (2’, 7’, 68’), Grover 3 (9’, 11’, 35’), Makasani (15’), Large (22’), Bassingthwaighte 2 (24’, 30’), Daly (37’), Hartman (41’), Caswell (46’), Finegan (58’)
Conversions: Fowler 7/9, Dene 5/5
Tries: Jackson (52’), Bunce (63’), Wesley (70’)
Conversions: Jackson 2/3