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12 Apr 2008 16:05
The New South Wales Waratahs climbed into the top four with a hard-fought 17-12 win over plucky Western Force in a thrilling Super 14 clash in Perth on Saturday.
In a bruising encounter that claimed key players from both sides, the Waratahs scored the only two tries, one in each half, and produced almost faultless defence to move to a 6-2 record and boost their play-off hopes.
The Force, who slipped to 5-4, lost star playmaker Matt Giteau after the Wallabies flyhalf was knocked out in a tackle early in the game, but led 12-10 with 10 minutes to play on the back of four penalties.
However, the always dangerous Wallaby back Lote Tuqiri set up the winning try with a cheeky kick in the 72nd minute.
Tuqiri’s kick along the ground went straight into the foot of the Force’s Cameron Shepherd and took a freakish bounce directly into the hands of the Waratahs’ Lachie Turner, who could barely believe his good fortune and charged down the side line to score.
Despite the five-point lead, the Waratahs had to weather one more push from the Force, who dominated possession for long periods during the match.
After the final hooter sounded and with the local crowd roaring, the Force pressed for almost four minutes and were within centimetres of the try that would have given them at least a draw, but Turner produced an intercept to seal the victory for his side.
Earlier in the half, Shepherd had saved the Force when he intercepted a Waratahs pass just a metre from the line as a try to the away side beckoned.
It was also Shepherd who gave the Force the lead in the second half with his third penalty, despite an earlier attempt unluckily bouncing off both the upright and crossbar and failing to go over.
The Waratahs also had injury problems, with captain Phil Waugh forced off with a knee problem in the 53rd minute, but were able to soak up some sustained Force attacking pressure through resolute defence.
Waugh conceded his side were lucky to escape with the win. “We toughed it out, but we made it hard for ourselves,” he said.
“It is a big win in the scheme of things.”
Force skipper Nathan Sharpe was disappointed his side could not convert general dominance into a victory.
“I thought we were just going to get over the line again,” he said.
Giteau lasted just 22 minutes, and had to be stretchered off after being knocked out when his attempt to tackle Sam Norton-Knight went wrong.
Tuqiri went to the aid of his Wallabies teammate while play continued, before play was held up for several minutes as Giteau was treated.
In the 26th minute, Waratah Kurtley Beale dished off to Tom Carter, who in turn got the ball to Rob Horne for the teenager to score under the posts in his starting debut and Beale’s subsequent conversion gave his side a 10-3 lead.—Sapa-AFP
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