The Western Force early game blues struck again as they went down 41-24 in their worst Super Rugby Pacific defeat of the season to the Waratahs at HBF Park.
They were 24 points down in a catastrophic first 15 minutes from which there was no coming back – the third time they have leaked early points in three consecutive losses.
They dominated every statistic: possession, territory, tackles, passes, metres made, rucks won -the list goes on – except the scoreboard where the Waratahs outscored them six tries to four.
The Force were shell-shocked early and when a second-half comeback looked on the cards it was quickly snuffed out by strong Waratahs defence.
The Force needed a win to open the gap on the chasing Melbourne Rebels in their push for the finals.
Force assistant Mark Ozich, standing in for coach Tim Sampson in COVID close contact isolation, admitted the game was over after the poor opening.
“The first 15 minutes, 24 points down, game’s effectively over,” Ozich said.
‘Lot of lessons and education about how to start a game around our physicality and execution.
“We failed in that space, we were found wanting and conceded too easily.
“You can’t just dip your toe in.”
But Ozich was pleased with the way they responded.
“I was proud of the effort, endeavour and physicality, but too little too late,” he said.
The Force were already without Wallaby second-rower Izack Rodda and scrum-half Issak Fines, close COVID contacts, and then lost hooker Feleti Kaitu’u, second-rower Jeremy Thrush, centre Bayley Kuenzle and winger Toni Pulu through injury and illness.
The shocking start opened with a Tane Edmed penalty after just five minutes, and two minutes later Mark Nawaqanitawase intercepted to race 50 metres and score. Edmed converted.
And just when it couldn’t get any worse – it did.
Fly-half Edmed sliced through the defence and fed entre Lalakai Foketi before adding the extras and Michael Hooper picked from a ruck and strolled untouched through a gaping hole for a third converted try.
The Force finally got over after 20 minutes when Reesjan Pasitoa collected a nice offload from Manasa Mataele. Prior converted.
Back-rower Tim Anstee gave the Force some hope when he crashed over from a line-out maul after the break but the Waratahs scored one of their own from the re-start through Dave Porecki. Edmed converted.
The maul tries kept coming, Force hooker Andrew Ready collecting the five points. Prior converted.
The Waratahs took advantage of fly-half Pasitoa gong to the sin-bin on the hour, Alex Newsome crossing twice.
When the Waratahs went down to 13 with both Mahe Vailanu and Foketi in the bin Pasitoa grabbed his second.