Highlanders grind out victory over Force

Super Rugby
Matt Lewis Profile
by Matt Lewis

The Highlanders have made it eight wins in a row at home, defeating the Western Force 32-20 in Dunedin.

The Western Force came out firing early breaking out to a 14-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes.

It was an early Christmas present for Dane Haylett-Petty who found himself on the end of a loose ball on the tryline to open the scoring, followed by a Ben McCalman break to extend the lead.

It was a breath of fresh air for coach Michael Foley whose side has struggled to make the most of their chances in recent weeks despite dominating possession.

While the Force had 71 per cent of the possession in the opening 15 minutes, the Highlanders eventually stepped it up a gear to strike back through a long cut-out pass from Aaron Smith to set up Patrick Osborne.

Ten minutes later the Highlanders showed off their attacking ability, making a 70 metre counter-attack as Aaron Smith recorded his second try-assist of the night to set up Dan Pryor.

In promising signs for the Force they continued their impressive form in the second half against the defending champions as Peter Grant slotted a penalty to re-gain the lead.

The Force defence was sloppy in the 51st minute as Aaron Smith set up yet another try after his grubber down the wing gave Matt Faddes an easy finish to give the Highlanders a 20-18 lead.

Injuries hurt the Force in the second half as Adam Coleman, Ross Haylett-Petty and Heath Tessman all went off after receiving head knocks while Angus Cottrell was helped from the field by a stretcher after being on the receiving end of a huge hit.

The Highlanders were able to grind out their fifth win of the season despite being off their game for most of the night.