Waratahs hold their nerve
Barnes lands two late penalties to see off the Force
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: 13/04/12 1:57pm
The Waratahs saw off a dogged Force comeback to secure a 23-18 victory in Perth.
The Force had looked down an out as they trailed 17-3 just after the interval, but, ultimately, it took two late penalties from Berrick Barnes to seal the win.
Tries from Tom Kingston and Dave Dennis, plus two conversions and penalty from Brendan McKibbin, had put the visitors into a comfortable lead.
However, the Force threatened an upset as Brett Sheehan and Alfie Mafi scored while David Harvey added a penalty and a conversion to an earlier three-pointer.
Australia international Barnes, though, held his nerve to slot over two penalties in the final 10 minutes to seal a win that keeps the Waratahs in the play-off mix.
McKibbin had got the visitors off to an ideal start with a penalty and they moved further clear when a superb counter-attack saw Kingston score his fourth try in four games. Force No.8 Richard Brown had initially coughed up possession in the Waratahs 22 with quick hands and a perfectly delayed pass from Tom Carter found Kingston to score. McKibbin converted.
Harvey cut the deficit for the home side but they suffered another setback before the break as Salesi Ma'afu was sin-binned as the Force scrum crumbled repeatedly on their own line.
The Force managed to hold out until half-time, but the Waratahs extended their lead immediately after the break. Dennis took a short line-out and ran in virtually unopposed. McKibbin converted to put the Tahs 17-3 up.
The home side, though, responded well - and, with the full XV back on the field, they were rewarded when former Waratahs No.9 Sheehan burrowed over.
And the tables were turned completely on the Waratahs when Bernard Foley was sin-binned for deliberately killing the ball - with the Force taking full advantage.
Richard Graham's men were rewarded for their adventure in going for the try instead of an easy three points - with a series of drives at the line creating the space out wide for Mafi to score. Harvey converted to cut the deficit to two points.
Harvey landed a penalty to put the Force in front for the first time, only for Barnes to respond immediately for the Waratahs.
Barnes missed another shot at goal before his penalty with five minutes left gave his side some much-needed breathing space.
The Force, though, threw everything at the visitors in the dying moments but they couldn't find a way through.