Force fall to Highlanders in Super Rugby arm-wrestle

Melissa Woods |

Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava was the sole tryscorer in the win over the Western Force.
Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava was the sole tryscorer in the win over the Western Force.

The Western Force have missed the chance to claim another Kiwi scalp, falling to the Highlanders in a 7-6 arm-wrestle in their Super Rugby Pacific clash in Dunedin.

Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava was the sole tryscorer, with both teams guilty of a swag of handling errors despite the match being played under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

After a rousing win over the defending champions Crusaders last round, the Force were looking for successive victories over New Zealand sides but came up short.

In a frustrating affair, their only points came through two penalty strikes by five-eighth Ben Donaldson.

Neither team managed to get on the scoreboard until Donaldson gave his team a 3-0 halftime lead, slotting a penalty in the 37th minute.

The home side went ahead six minutes into the second half when Fakatava found a hole in the Perth side’s goal-line defence.

Force winger Chase Tiatai raced forward out of the defensive line, momentarily distracting his teammates, with Fakatava seizing the opportunity to dive across.

The converted try gave the Highlanders a 7-3 lead until Donaldon’s second penalty in the 53rd minute closed the margin to one point.

Despite plenty of time left on the clock, the Force made lot of attacking raids but weren’t able to find a winning try or even a penalty to go ahead.

Veteran Force halfback Nic White said it felt like a missed opportunity.

“It was just kind of last-pass stuff,” he told Stan Sport.

“We created opportunities but we just weren’t able to capitalise, just a few too many errors.

“We came over and competed well, so I’m proud of the fight in the guys …  it’s bloody disappointing as I thought we played really well.

“You’ve got to feel like that’s just another one this year that we’ve let slip.”

The win meant the Highlanders, kept scoreless last round by Queensland, leap-frogged Moana Pasifika into eighth spot on the ladder.

The Force, with two wins, remain last.