Coach Darren Coleman commended his squad’s maturity in parts of the game, making special mention of Harrison’s combination with five-eighth and good mate Ben Donaldson.
“I thought the Harrison-Donaldson [combination] was key to that in how they kicked and exited, and (forwards coach) Pauli [Taumoepeau] has those forwards humming. I think we must have defended 10 to 15 maul tries over the last couple of weeks and haven’t conceded, so it’s really good,” he said.
Coleman lamented the Force’s late assault and wondered aloud whether his players were guilty of trying to defend the score line throughout the second half.
“You can’t take your foot off the accelerator there,” he said. “We look like we protect the lead and if we get one more score there at 22-7, it would have been game over, but we kept them in. It was disappointing to realize that bonus point but I can’t fault that effort.”
The win will be a major boost for the Waratahs heading into the mid-section of the season, with the Rebels coming up for a Sydney Cricket Ground clash next Saturday, before the team heads to Brisbane for round two against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.
That they secured it in spite of two late scratchings from their starting line up spoke volumes for the squad’s slow-boil development. Captain Jake Gordon pulled out with a tight hamstring and told the Stan broadcast that he could miss the next four weeks, while hooker Dave Porecki sat out with a groin strain.
Gordon’s absence allowed Jack Grant’s family to close the loop on their special Leichhardt Oval connection. The 28-year-old halfback is the son of former Wallabies winger James Grant, who converted to rugby league after his Test career and played for the Balmain Tigers.
Force winger and Fiji international Manasa Mataele scored first for his side, putting the visitors out to a 7-0 lead after the conversion in the ninth minute.
It was a scrappy opening period, with both sides conceding penalties and unforced errors, but the Waratahs’ No.7 Charlie Gamble bowled over to score his first Super Rugby try in the 17th minute to make it 7-5, before Harrison cranked things up with the boat.
Meanwhile, the Waratahs notched their 20th straight win in Super W in an abrasive 31-14 win over the Force.
NSW prop Bridie O’Gorman delivered the try of the season with a 30-metre support run to take the ball and fend off the last defender before scoring in the 67th minute.
The match also featured the debut of Ella Koster, the youngest ever Waratah at age 16 years, seven months and 28 days.