A last-minute conversion hit the post to hand the Force a 31-29 victory over the Highlanders in Saturday's clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
A last-minute conversion hit the post to hand the Force a 31-29 victory over the Highlanders in Saturday's Super Rugby clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The result is the Australian side's sixth consecutive win over the Highlanders, who will be kicking themselves for butchering a number of opportunities as they made a late comeback.
The home side enjoyed the lion's share of territory and possession but were punished for poor execution and decision making by a Force outfit that took their chances clinically.
The Force outscored their hosts three tries to one in the first half to lead 21-16 at the interval but had to hang on with 13 men in the dying stages.
The Force struck first when hooker Nathan Charles produced a great show-and-go to jinx the Highlanders defence and score inside three minutes.
Sias Ebersohn added the conversion but Lima Sopoaga slotted three penalties to give the Highlanders a 9-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The visitors landed a sucker punch to regain the lead as Ebersohn intercepted on halfway and raced home untouched with his conversion giving the Force a five-point lead at 14-9.
The Highlanders were rewarded for their positive endeavour when Shaun Treeby latched onto Aaron Smith's grubber to touch down. Sopoaga added the extras put the hosts back in front.
But Ben McCalman ensured his team would go into the break with their noses ahead thanks to powerful run from the number eight, who crashed over under the sticks.
Ebersohn's third conversion meant the Force held the advantage at 21-16 as the teams swapped ends.
The Force fly-half kicked over a penalty to extend the gap to eight points early in the second period before Junior Rasolea bagged the bonus-point try after charging down Sopoaga and amazingly hanging onto the ball and finishing in the corner.
Ebersohn maintained his perfect record from the kicking tee as the Force took a 15-point head-start into the final quarter.
The Highlanders' reply wasn't long in coming though as Malakai Fekitoa muscled his way over from short range after a patient build up from the hosts. Sopoaga missed the conversion though to leave the Highlanders trailing at 31-21.
The Highlanders stepped up the pressure and Sopoaga's fourth penalty brought them within striking distance going into the final ten minutes.
The Force seemed to have shoot themselves in the foot, conceding two yellow cards in quick succession (Adam Coleman and Ben McCalman) but the Highlanders conspired to make a hash of what looked like a sure five points from a five metre scrum.
It took the Highlanders eight minutes to finally get over the line as Hayden Parker crossed out wide but the replacement fly-half hit the upright with his conversion as the hooter sounded to hand the Force victory.
Tries: Treeby, Fekitoa, Parker
Pens: Sopoaga 4
For Western Force:
Tries: Charles, Ebersohn, McCalman, Rasolea
Cons: Ebersohn 4
Yellow cards: Coleman, McCalman
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Kurt Baker, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Shane Christie, 6 John Hardie, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Craig Millar, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)