Super Rugby: Western Force win sixth successive Highlanders clash
Last Updated: 15/03/14 11:52am
Western Force completed back-to-back victories for the first time since April 2011 as they edged out the Highlanders 31-29 in Dunedin.
Despite finishing the match with 13 players on the field, Force held on to take a bonus-point win, having touched down four tries, courtesy of Nathan Charles, Sias Ebersohn, Ben McCalman and Junior Rasolea.
The result gives Michael Foley's side a sixth successive Super Rugby victory over the Highlanders.
Force entered the final 20 minutes to a 15-point buffer as they led 31-16 before McCalman and Adam Coleman were both sent to the sin bin as the visitors encountered a spirited Highlanders comeback.
The Highlanders dominated possession and territory as they steadily narrowed the margin, forcing the Force to resort to desperate measures, including a spear tackle which saw referee Glen Jackson produce the yellow cards.
A two-man personnel advantage was not enough to help the Highlanders bridge the gap as they persisted for eight minutes before replacement fly-half Hayden Parker finally crossed the line.
Parker could have secured even spoils for the Highlanders, but his conversion sailed wide, leaving the hosts two shy.
Despite being on the losing end of the second period, Foley's Force had amassed enough points in the first half, as they entered the break 21-16 up.
The Force, who raced to a 32-0 lead at half time against the Melbourne Rebels last weekend, started in emphatic fashion once more as they opened their tally within three minutes.
Added the extras
Hooker Charles touched down in the left-hand corner to get the Force moving, with Ebersohn adding the extras.
A lack of discipline cost Force the lead however as Highlanders' fly-half Lima Sopoaga landed three successive penalties - including a 50-metre effort - as they took advantage of repeated infringements at the breakdown.
There was two more twists before half time as Ebersohn regained control for the Force with a 40-metre intercept try, which he also converted.
Highlanders, who have just one win from their opening three matches now, responded quickly as Shaun Treeby snapped up an Aaron Smith chip to cross the line.
Sopoaga's conversion put the Highlanders in front before McCalman crashed over the line, Ebersohn adding the conversion, as the Force took the half-time lead.
An early second half penalty from Ebersohn extended the Force lead, before Rasolea raced over the line to add a bonus-point try, which the fly-half again converted to give the visitors a 31-16 lead.
Following the dismissals of McCalman and Coleman, the Highlanders fought to seize their advantage as Malakai Fekitoa crossed the line before Sopoaga added a fourth penalty.
Parker worked his way over the line in the final act of the match but his failure to convert handed victory to the Force.
Foley's side return to Perth to face defending champions Chiefs next weekend, while the Highlanders host the Hurricanes.