The Western Force have heaped more misery on the NSW Waratahs with a drought-busting 20-16 Super Rugby AU victory in Sydney.
The Force rallied from 13-0 down to record their first Super Rugby win since also beating the Waratahs in Perth in July 2017 – in their final game before being booted out of the competition.
“It’s huge for us. We made a bit of history tonight and it’s crucial for us to get that bit of confidence back,” said jubilant Force captain Brynard Stander.
“It’s huge for the state because there’s a lot of loyal supporters in Western Australia. Our sea of blue is what we call them and they’re behind us thick or thin.
“So for us to take a win back home, not just to the sea of blue but also our beloved families, is just an incredible feeling.”
Coach Tim Sampson said the Force would celebrate their breakthrough win long and hard after enduring nine straight defeats since returning to the domestic Super Rugby competition last year.
“You’ve got to celebrate it. You’ve got to enjoy those moments and as you can imagine it’s a pretty noisy change room in there at the moment,” Sampson said.
“It’s what you work your butt off for all week, to get the ‘W’, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t celebrate that.”
Shortly after the win, the Force celebrated by belting out a rendition of Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’.
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Stander told Channel Nine it was an addition to the team song.
“We just said that we’re gonna add a little singalong that everyone knows and enjoys at the end of every victory,” he said.
“Hopefully there’s a lot more to come.”
But while the Force can celebrate, the Waratahs’ third consecutive defeat, after opening 2021 with record losses to the Brumbies and Queensland Reds, has only intensified the pressure on embattled coach Rob Penney.
Penney said after last week’s 61-10 capitulation to the Brumbies that he would happily walk if he was no longer deemed the man to take the Waratahs forward.
But he was in no mood to discuss his future on Friday night.
“I don’t know. You’ll answer that for us,” Penney said when asked if the improved showing meant he was still the right man for the job.
The Waratahs looked the goods early against the Force, opting for a lineout over three gift points from a penalty in front of the posts and being rewarded with a try to hooker David Porecki from a driving maul in the fifth minute.
Will Harrison’s successful conversion, and penalty goals in the 14th and 24th minutes gave the Tahs their 13-point start.
But the Force reduced the deficit to three points by halftime through a nice try to lock Fergus Lee-Warner from a Tim Anstee break, followed by a Jake McIntyre penalty three minutes before the interval.
Anstee did it all himself to put the Force ahead, the blindside flanker sweeping around the back of a lineout and beating three defenders to charge over in the 54th minute.
There was no way back for the Waratahs.
One fleeting play from winger James Ramm summed up the Tahs’ exasperating start to the season.
After brilliantly reeling in a midfield bomb, Ramm appeared certain to score to put the Waratahs back in front only for the ball to somehow fly free from his arm without another player in sight.
Not even the Force being reduced to 14 men for the final quarter of an hour, after replacement forward Andrew Ready was red-carded for punching Hugh Sinclair in the face, could save the Waratahs.
And the latest slip-up leaves Penney squarely under the gun.