Force claim consecutive bonus point wins

15 Mar 2014
Force claim consecutive bonus point wins

Sheer guts from the Force, who played the last 10 minutes of the game with 13 men, overcame the Highlanders 31-29.

The Highlanders scored late through replacement flyhalf Hayden Parker, but he was forced wide which made his conversion attempt harder, and he was unable to land it to achieve the draw.

But it was a game effort from the Force who had to go back three years to the last time they had won consecutive games. 

Replacement loose forward Adam Coleman was sin-binned and then No.8 Ben McCalman, who had been a key contributor, was also sin-binned for a tip tackle.

From the five-metre scrum the Highlanders muffed their chance to score immediately and that ate up time as the Force cleared downfield. Again the Highlanders came back but they were unable to ground the ball in a maul over the line, and more time was wasted.

A five-metre scrum was forced, and collapsed by the Force, but finally the chance came and Parker crossed wide out.

However, the game had been lost earlier by the Highlanders whose mistakes had been punished by the Force in emphatic fashion.

Looking to replicate their electric start from their last outing against the Rebels, the Force showed good patience from the outset and they crossed for the opening try from a rolling maul which saw hooker Nathan Charles touch down.

The Highlanders made an initial response with two penalty goals to Lima Sopoaga but no sooner was there a restart after his second than the Force kicked the ball dead.

From the resulting scrum halfback Alby Mathewson was ruled offside and Sopoaga promptly goaled from 50m to claim the lead in the 18th minute.

Ebersohn compensated for the error by picking off an attempted long pass by home hooker Liam Coltman to race in from 40m out to add the conversion to lead 14-9.

Working their way back into the Force 22m area, the Highlanders produced a set piece play from a scrum with No.8 Nasi Manu feeding to halfback Aaron Smith standing off. Smith fired a kick through for Shaun Treeby to win the ball for the try.

However, just on half time, some hard yards were gained by wing Luke Morahan who took play to within 10m of the Highlanders' line and from the ruck, McCalman shook off a tackle attempt to go in under the posts.

Ebersohn's conversion gave the Force a 21-16 lead at half time. He added a penalty goal to start the second half and as desperation grew for the Highlanders they were forced into error.

In the 55th minute, the Highlanders looked to run the ball through midfield, but a pass from Treeby to centre Malakai Fekitoa saw the catcher receive the ball and defender Nick Cummins at the same instant. The ball dropped free and in covering Sopoaga had his kick charged by centre Junior Rasolea and he held the ball to outpace the defence on his run to score in the corner.

The Highlanders response was immediate and they had reward for keeping ball in hand after strong runs by prop Kane Hames, Sopoaga and Fekitoa, who featured twice, the second time to score.