Australia side earn another win after pipping the Otago Highlanders.
The Western Force continued their recent dominance of the Otago Highlanders with a thrilling 19-18 win in their Super 15 rugby clash in Perth on Saturday.
In the battle of the competition’s cellar dwellers, with just three wins before them for the season, the Force made it their fifth straight win against the embattled Highlanders and notched their third victory for the season.
For the New Zealand side, the result means they are almost certain to claim the wooden spoon this year.
Although the Force only ran in the only try in a match dominated by the kicking games of both sides, the boot of Jayden Hayward held the Highlanders at bay.
Hayward scored 14 points and also set up the game’s only try.
After the Highlanders hit the lead through a Colin Slade long-range penalty in the 76th minute, Hayward won a penalty 60 seconds later when he was taken out by substitute Tino Nemani after kicking the ball.
Hayward stepped up and cooly slotted the penalty to put the Force back in front.
The Force had generally looked the best side for most of the match, dominating possession but struggling to crack the defence of the Highlanders.
They looked certain to score early in the match when they put together 23 phases as they camped on the try line, but the Highlanders held firm in defence.
But in the 17th minute Hayward made a break down the right side line and the ball ended up with Sias Ebersohn, who dived over in the corner for his first try since 2011.
Hayward converted to give the home side a 7-0 lead and reward them for their early energy.
The two sides then traded penalties, the Force leading 10-6 at the break, until the final 20 minutes saw the Highlanders finally click into gear and produce their most cohesive rugby of the match.
They were narrowly denied a try in the 62nd minute, when Ma’a Nonu slid in against the post and the video referee was called upon, but it was impossible to be certain he grounded the ball, and it was ruled to have been held up.
The Highlanders had a last gasp chance to snatch the win, but Slade knocked on.
Force captain Matt Hodgson said his team showed great resilience to hang on for the win.
“I’m proud of the boys,” he said.
“It was not the prettiest of games in the second half, but we didn’t let a try in.
“If we get our attack to match our defence we will be a great side.”
Highlanders skipper Brad Thorn lamented errors from his side.
“It was another disappointing one,” he said.
“It was just the little things, they are hard lessons and hopefully (at) some stage this year we will learn them.”