Sea of blue as woeful Force flogged at home

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

A hapless Force outfit have not fired a shot in a dreadful 55-6 loss to the Highlanders at nib Stadium.

It is hard to draw many, if any, positives from the performance, which was a complete form reversal from their heroic win against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires this time last week.

A lacklustre effort in attack put the Force under constant defensive pressure and it was around the fringes of the breakdown where the Highlanders made the home side really hurt.

Highlanders halves Kayne Hammington and Marty Banks kept putting their forwards over the gain line time and time again and the Force had no answers.

The Force coughed up cheap ball from set piece and struggled for any sort of attacking momentum.Peter Grant was forced from the field early in the piece. Photo: Getty ImagesPeter Grant succumbing to a head knock meant Ian Prior was thrust into flyhalf and his combination with Michael Ruru wasn't threatening the Highlanders' line.

That saw players trying to get too cute, pushing passes like the one Billy Meakes threw straight to Aki Seuili for a rare prop intercept try.

Add that to a pair of yellow cards and you have the recipe for a bad loss at nib Stadium.

The opening 10 minutes was a kick-fest which wouldn't have been enjoyed by either forward pack, a Marty Banks penalty breaking the deadlock after 14 minutes.

That triggered the Highlanders into some better, free-flowing rugby which created their first five pointer.

As the ball shifted to the right side of the field, the dynamic Malakai Fekitoa drew two defenders to create a two-on-one for Matt Faddes and Tevita Li, the former putting the latter away for the first try of the night.

Curtis Rona was solid for the Force. Photo: Getty ImagesIan Prior calmly slotted two penalties to bring the home side within a try but the next 13 minutes weren't as kind to the Force - Seuili's try courtesy of Meakes quickly followed by a Semisi Masirewa yellow card for a deliberate knockdown.

The second half started in exactly the kind of fashion Force fans would have hoped to avoid.

The home side parted like the Red Sea, Patrick Osborne took advantage and went untouched from 60 metres out to open up a 24-6 lead.

A dumb Richie Arnold shoulder charge on Marty Banks meant the home side had to play with 14 men for 20 minutes instead of 10 and the visitors made them pay - Seuili crossing for his second.

The floodgates opened after that, as Force players started to fall off tackles at an alarming rate.

Rob Thompson came off the bench and scored two tries as well as running 70 metres to set up another - Dillon Hunt the scorer.

Meakes threw another intercept into the arms of Richard Buckman to bring up the half century.

The Highlanders have now won eight straight and look every bit as good as their Kiwi counterparts.

The Force, on the other hand, must beat the Reds next Friday to keep their season alive.

RESULT

Force 6

Tries:

Cons:

Pens: Prior 2

Highlanders 55

Tries: Li, Seuili 2, Osborne, Thompson 2, Hunt, Buckman

Cons: Banks 6

Pens: Banks

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