A fast start in both halves from the Highlanders has seen the Force defeated 61-10 in the Round 13 Super Rugby Pacific clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
The Highlanders opened the scoring in the second minute, with prop Andrew Makalio reaching over after a slick pass from co-captain Aaron Smith. Fly-half Sam Gilbert successfully converted to open up a seven point lead (7-0).
Marino Mikaele-Tu’u then crashed over for the Highlanders’ second try following a breakaway from the number eight in the fifth minute. Gilbert converted to give the Dunedin-based side a 14-0 lead.
The Force responded to the Highlanders' fast start in the 10th minute, as veteran lock Jeremy Thrush surged over for a try after a barnstorming run from homegrown flanker Ollie Callan. Thrush’s try reduced brought the score to 14-5 in favour of the Highlanders.
Despite the response, the Highlanders continued the scoreboard pressure with their third try in the 14th minute. Winger Scott Gregory latched onto an offload from Thomas Umaga-Jensen. Gilbert converted to see the score read 21-5 after 15 minutes.
Mikaele-Tu’u added his second of the night in the 21st minute after picking up the ball from the base of the scrum, with Gilbert converting (26-5).
Highlanders lock Josh Dickson received a yellow card in the 31st minute for a dangerous tackle on Force number eight Tim Anstee. The Force made the numerical advantage count just a minute later, with prop Andrew Ready scoring a try following a crashing run and offload from Callan (28-10).
The Highlanders added their fifth, sixth and seventh tries courtesy of Makalio (43’), Rhys Marshall (52’) and Folau Fakatava (57’). Gilbert converted all three to make the score 49-10 with 23 minutes remaining.
Captain Feleti Kaitu’u was shown a yellow card after being judged to have engaged in foul play by referee Ben O’Keefe in the 67th minute. Richard Kahui was then controversially shown a red card for foul play in 74th minute.
Billy Harmon (77’) and Fakatava (80’) both scored tries in the final five minutes, with Gilbert converting the Harmon’s, as the match ended 61-10 in favour of the Highlanders.
The Force continues their New Zealand tour with a trip to Hamilton next Saturday to take on the Chiefs.
Highlanders: Tries: Andrew Makailo (2’, 43’), Marino Mikaele-Tu’u (5’,21’), Scott Gregory (14’), Rhys Marshall (52’), Folau Fakatava (57’, 80’), Billy Harmon (77’). Conversions: Sam Gilbert (8).
Western Force: Tries: Jeremy Thrush (9’), Andrew Ready (32’).
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