Wallaby flyhalf Matt Giteau kicked a penalty just before the whistle to give the Perth-based Western Force a thrilling 22-21 win over the Waikato Chiefs in their Super 14 rugby clash in Perth on Saturday.
The Chiefs appeared to have clinched victory when centre Callum Bruce kicked a drop goal with only three minutes left but the Force, needing to win to keep their faint finals hopes alive, threw everything at the visitors in the dying stages.
They looked to have thrown victory away when they blew what seemed a certain try with only seconds left but South African referee Marius Jonker ruled the Chiefs’ defenders had strayed offside and gave the home side a penalty 10 metres from touch.
Giteau stepped up to steer the ball through the posts and keep the Force in touch with the leading teams.
The Chiefs, who took a bonus point from the match, stayed in fourth position but could slip to fifth by the end of the round.
”You’ve got to give credit to the Force, they really gave it to us and probably deserved to win in the end,” Waikato captain Mils Muliaina said.
The Force shocked the Chiefs early when Matt Hodgson charged down a kick from scrumhalf Jamie Nutbrown and regathered to score in the corner.
Giteau’s magnificent touchline conversion made it 7-0, which became 7-3 soon after following a Stephen Donald penalty.
On the 10-minute mark Force winger Drew Mitchell burst through three tackles to touch down in almost the same spot as Hodgson and another superb Giteau conversion made it 14-3 at the break.
The Chiefs struck back immediately after the restart when Sitiveni Sivivatu split the defence and unloaded to fellow winger Lelia Masaga who crossed out wide.
Donald, who had missed two relatively simple penalty attempts in the first half, sent his conversion attempt wide and the Force led 14-8.
The Force were getting on top of their opponents and rocked the Chiefs when scrumhalf James Stannard caught the defence napping with a sniping run down the sideline.
But the Chiefs struck back immediately with a try under the posts to Donald following a brilliant break from Masaga. Donald then scored a penalty to make it 19-18.
After 12 minutes of helter-skelter action which left a trail of exhausted and injured players all over the field, Bruce’s drop goal and Giteau’s penalty made for a pulsating climax. – Reuters