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
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.