Planet Rugby

Sydney arm-wrestle ends in stalemate

02nd March 2007 10:49

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Richard Brown of the Force takes on the Waratahs defence

The Waratahs and Western Force played to a 16-all stalemate in their Super 14 Round Five encounter at the Aussie Stadium in Sydney on Friday.

And the game, a real arm-wrestle as the say Down Under, was marred at the end by ugly scenes between Waratah players.

It ended with Lote Tuqiri shoving around teammate Sam Norton-Knight - after the latter had seemingly made a tactical error in the final seconds of the match, while the combustible former Rugby League star showed his frustrations in a very spiteful manner.

In a typical all-Australian derby you would have expected the opposition to be aggressive towards and very angry with each other. But the match ended with some very friendly chit-chat between opponents, while Tuqiri chose to attack his teammate.

A strange end to an odd match.

It was a game of field position, but a game in which nobody truly stamped they authority on proceedings.

The game called out for heroes. It produced moments of sheer brilliance, but only a few. Those who looked likely to be heroes, managed to undo their hard work of earlier with some sloppy efforts later.

The Waratahs dominated the first 20 minutes and looked like running away with the game, as they controlled possession and sprinted into a 13-0 lead inside the first quarter.

However, the Western Force managed to get their hands on the ball, worked their way back into the game and by half-time had narrowed the gap to just two points - 13-11.

The second half deteriorated into a scrappy, brutal affair, with lots of mistakes and even worse option taking. The Waratahs added just three more points to their total and the Force five.

It was that sort of game.

It started out as that sort of game. The Waratahs had lost their captain, Phil Waugh, to injury earlier in the week. The Western Force lost their captain, Nathan Sharpe, shortly before the game to injury.

Peter Hewat slotted two early penalties - in the fifth and eighth minutes - as the Waratahs made their dominance count.

In the 20th minute Morgan Turinui went over for his team's only try, coming when he cut straight between Junior Pelesasa and Ryan Cross - a move that showed up the lack of experience the former Rugby League star, Cross, has in understanding the defensive lines of Rugby Union.

Hewat added the conversion and it all looked good for the 'Tahs at 13-0.

But they did not score again in the half.

Five minutes later Drew Mitchell put the Force on the board with his team's first try, coming from a line-out and Pelesasa making up for the earlier lapse between him and Cross by cutting through, before some great hands put Mitchell into space.

Cameron Shepherd, who had a woeful day with the boot, missed the conversion.

In fact Shepherd, who kicked just two from six, left 10 crucial points on the table in a game that cried out for some of the heroics he produced against the Bulls last month. His kicking standards have certainly slipped since then.

Shepherd did kick two penalties - his only successful kicks of the day - in the 28th and 40th minutes, as the Force continued to narrow the gap.

The moment of the match came three minutes into the second half, when Matt Giteau showed his value to the Force by scoring a try that had class stamped all over it. He noticed that the Waratahs' cover defence had become lazy and quickly stepped into a gap, before accelerating and racing over for a brilliant try.

Shepherd missed the relatively easy conversion attempt, but at 16-13 the Force were not only back in the game, they were now in the lead.

But that was to be their last score.

Hewat, who had earlier hit the upright with an attempted penalty from right in front, slotted a penalty in the 64th minute to tie the scores.

The final 15 minutes saw the two teams battle for territorial advantage as they searched for the winning score.

Neither managed to create a genuine chance, although there were promising moments.

Man of the match: The Waratahs' replacement hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau made a huge impact when he came on in the second half and certainly put his hand up. But he undid all his hard work with a number poor throws at crucial line-outs - two going skew and one lost, going to nobody in particular. Our award for Man of the Match goes to Western Force fly-half Matt Giteau, who not only showed his creative brilliance in the crucial early second-half score, but he showed why he is such a vital cog in the Force backline.

The scorers:

For the Waratahs:

Try: Turinui

Con: Hewat

Pens: Hewat 3

For the Western Force:

Tries: Mitchell, Giteau

Pens: Shepherd 2

Teams:

Waratahs: 15 Peter Hewat, 14 Morgan Turinui, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Daniel Halangahu, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Will Caldwell, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Alastair Baxter, 2 Adam Freier (c), 1 Benn Robinson

Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Aaron Broughton-Rouse, 18 Ben Hand, 19 David Lyons, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Sam Norton-Knight, 22 Sam Harris

Western Force: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Junior Pelesasa, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Matt Henjak, 8 Scott Fava, 7 Richard Brown, 6 David Pusey, 5 Luke Doherty, 4 Rudi Vedelago, 3 Troy Takiari, 2 Brendan Cannon, 1 Gareth Hardy

Replacements: 16 Tai McIsaac, 17 Angus Scott, 18 Matt Hodgson, 19 David Pocock, 20 Chris O'Young, 21 James Hilgendorf, 22 Haig Sare

Referee: Paul Marks (Australia)

Touch judges: George Ayoub (Australia), James Scholtens (Australia)

Television match official: Geoff Acton (Australia)

Assessor: Ian Scotney (Australia)

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