Rugby: 13-man Force hold off Highlanders

Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa on the charge against the Force. Photo Getty Images
Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa on the charge against the Force. Photo Getty Images
The Highlanders just do not know how to beat the Force.

For the sixth time in a row, the Highlanders fell to the team from Perth, going down 31-29 at Forsyth Barr Stadum tonight.

The side had a chance to draw the game on the hooter but Hayden Parker's conversion from wide out hit the post.

It was a match which never rose to great heights, dominated by the whistle of Glen Jackson and the inability of the Highlanders to string much together in attack.

The Force made the most of its chances and slowed plenty of ball down on the Highlanders' side.

The game's key moment came with nine minutes left when the Force had two players yellow-carded.

Adam Coleman was dispatched after constant team infringement and he was followed by No 8 Ben McCalman for a tip tackle on prop Kane Hames.

The Highlanders thought they had a try with three minutes left by under a pile of bodies nothing clear could be ruled.

They tried again and Parker went over with the clock all but up but his gallant conversion attempt fell short.

The Force had a commanding lead 15 minutes into the second half when centre Junior Rasolea scored in the corner after he charged down a Lima Sopoaga clearing kick.

That put the visiting side 15 points ahead and it was a bridge too far for the home team.

They tried hard but were not quite accurate enough and the visiting team was clever enough to slow the ball down at ruck time which upset the Highlanders' phase play.

The first half was a penalty-riddled affair as neither team got any momentum into its game.

The Highlanders had a large share of the possession but when the Force got a sniff of a chance it made the most of it, and bagged three tries in the opening 40 minutes.

The first came after just three minutes, with hooker Nathan Charles barging over after a misread on defence from Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith.

The Highlanders came back into the game as the Force seemed prepared to give away penalties right under its posts.

Three Sopoaga penalties had the home side in front after 20 minutes but it did not last long.

Hometown hooker Liam Coltman threw a forgettable pass and Sian Ebersohn intercepted it and raced 45m to score under the bar.

Shaun Treeby scored the only try of the first half for the Highlanders just after the half hour mark, getting on the end of a Aaron Smith grubber kick.

But the Force had the last laugh with No 8 Ben McCalman scoring under the posts with a minute left in the half.

Force 31 (Nathan Charles, Sian Ebersohn, Ben McCalman, Junior Rasolea tries; Ebersohn 4 con, pen), Highlanders 29 (Shaun Treeby, Malakai Fekitoa, Hayden Parker tries; Lima Sopoaga con, 4 pen). Halftime: 21-16 Force.

HIghlanders had a chance

Such a great game from the Highlanders from the 55th minute until the 71st minute - the subs made a huge impact. They really put the pressure back on the Force.

Then in the last 10mins everyone seemed to think that walking back to the penalty mark and taking their time to set the scrum was a good idea??? You would have thought the Highlanders were up and not behind - just no urgency.

They just looked confused in the last 10 mins on what to do and who was in charge on the field.