Force can't stop Hurricanes
Ellison shines for hosts as Gear's replacement, setting up three tries
Last Updated: 21/02/10 3:59pm
Nonu: Crossed in the closing stages for Hurricanes
The Hurricanes proved much too strong for a weakened Western Force team, running out 47-22 winners in Wellington.
Despite a gutsy performance, the absence of so many first-choice players was keenly-felt and the home side simply had too much class.
But the visitors competed remarkably well. Having initially looked like drowning early, the Force played it clever for much of the middle part of the game, retaining the ball well and looking for options at the right times.
That included an early reshuffle in the backs which saw James O'Connor shift to fly-half after Sam Harris showed still more signs of not being able to cope with the position.
Only towards the end when fatigue set in and the quality came off the Hurricanes bench did the score begin to get ugly.
But even then, a spirited last five minutes from the visitors got them a third try and gave the scoreline a much fairer look.
For their part, the Hurricanes controlled the game well and never looked too susceptible to any upset.
Tamati Ellison slotted seamlessly into the wing jersey vacated by Hosea Gear and ended up being the main creative force for his team with clever grubbers creating the first two tries and a terrific pass sending David Smith home for the crucial fourth.
O'Connor gave the Force an early lead with a penalty, quickly cancelled out by Willie Ripia - who did not have a good day with the boot - as the Force had slightly the better of the opening exchanges.
That all changed after a quarter of an hour when Ellison took the ball off his wing in midfield, threaded it through three onrushing defenders towards the corner where Cory Jane was on hand to finish off.
Ellison repeated his grubber technique to equal effect, this time sending David Smith in the other corner. Ripia landed the extras, making the score 18-3.
Back came the Force, though, narrowing their game and using Matt Hodgson and Nathan Sharpe as battering rams.
Their ball retention was excellent and eventually yielded an excellent try, with O'Connor sparking the counter attack, Dane Haylett-Petty finding the gap and Josh Tatupu finishing in the corner.
After weathering the initial storm of battering runs in the second half, the Hurricanes cut loose to extend their 18-8 half-time advantage.
Jane managed to regain his own kick and send Michael Paterson in at the left corner, then another piece of Ellison magic, a one-movement catch, step and pass, gave David Smith his second and the 'Canes their bonus point.
Ripia could not convert either score, and so at 28-8 the Force still had a chance, even more so when O'Connor's precise pass sent Haylett-Petty in and added the extras to make it 28-15.
But that was the end of their hopes. Neemia Tialata drove over from close range just after the hour and there were further scores for Nonu and Tyson Keats. Chris O'Young grabbed a late score for cosmetic value to the scoreline.