Rugby: Highlanders fall to Force again

By Steve Hepburn

Aaron Smith was in a different class in Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images
Aaron Smith was in a different class in Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images

Highlanders 29
Force 31

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 much 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. It tried again and Parker went over with the clock all but up but his gallant conversion 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.

It tried hard but was 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.

Home town hooker Liam Coltman threw a forgettable pass and Sias 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)
HT: 21-16 Force

- Otago Daily Times

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