The Western Force’s unlikely bid to qualify for the Super Rugby Men’s U19 Final has ended with a frustrating 32-5 defeat to the NSW Waratahs at Forshaw Rugby Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Force needed an improbable win by 34 points or more to surpass NSW on the ladder and climb into second spot to earn a berth in next weekend’s Final against the ACT Brumbies.
The visitors had plenty of possession in dangerous areas but the Tahs’ defence was outstanding, while the home side was more clinical in attack, scoring three first-half tries.
The Force kept coming in the second half, although they were frustrated by penalties in their attacking 22m before reserve Rueben Baker finally crossed, only for the Tahs to score the final three tries to round out the win.
The result ends the Force's U19s season, with the side finishing fourth on the ladder after a campaign full of promise and improvement.
The WA side boasted the early attacking play but the Waratahs withstood the pressure in defence, turning the ball over in a scrum in their defensive 22m and repelling well after Finn Prass’ well-placed kick.
Tahs winger Archie Saunders made the Force pay for their profligacy, breaking through from Oliver Schmude’s clever pass for the opening try in the 21st minute.
The Force defence had their turn holding off NSW pressure, doing well to thwart numerous Tahs’ thrusts after a driving maul from Bryn Edwards’ line-out, only for Schmude to score their second in the left corner after ripping the ball off Dane Sawers. Schmude converted his 35th minute try for a 12-0 lead.
The Tahs added their third on the stroke of the interval with their forward pack delivering, rolling over from a line-out with the ball under hooker Edwards’ arm for a 17-0 half-time lead.
The Force started the second half like the first, on the offensive, aided by the introduction of leading try scorer Dylan Bronlund at the break, but couldn’t get their reward after Luke Holt-Brown and Vaughan Robson line breaks.
NSW lock Arnie Tancred was yellow carded for a high tackle in the 53rd minute, albeit it seemed a case of mistaken identity, before impressive Wanneroo blindside flanker Manaia TeTana was held up when across the line in the ensuing plays. The Force again were left frustrated in an attacking position, penalized after their maul came apart.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Tahs almost had their fourth try in the 63rd minute with Saunders utilizing his speed on exit down the left side, only for Jackson Rapota’s knock-on to relieve the pressure on the scrambling Force backs.
Kauri Tipene-Grace showcased his kicking game finding touch inside the NSW defensive 10m, only for an obstruction to turn the ball over again.
In the 68th minute, the Force finally got on the board with Wanneroo teenager Baker crashing over from short range after Bronlund’s drive went within inches of the try-line.
After Robson’s big hit on Nacani Batidravu, the Tahs snuffed out any threat of a Force comeback win, with Julien Caillol offloading in the midfield to set up William Kennedy to score.
Things opened up for NSW in the 74th minute when William Guilfoyle came off the back of a maul and found gaps in the Force defence to also cross. Saunders crossed for his second after the siren, after Caillol’s tap and go set up a break down the right side.
Tries: Saunders 2 (21’, 80'), Schmude (35’), Edwards (40’), Kennedy (71’), Guilfoyle (74’)
Conversions: Schmude 1/4, Walsh 0/1, Langfield 0/1
Tries: Baker (68’)
Conversions: Prass 0/1