Highlanders 27 Western Force 41The Western Force continued their mid-season revival with an impressive 41-27 bonus-point Super 14 win over the Highlanders in Queenstown on Saturday.Returning winger Cameron Shepherd and Ryan Cross each scored a brace as the Force ran in six tries to three to secure their second win on the trot after last week’s thrilling win over the Stormers.But it wasn’t an easy task for the Force, who trailed 22-20 after 65 minutes before tries to substitute halfback Justin Turner, Cross and Shepherd secured the points.James O’Connor was the other try scorer for the Force, while prop Chris King, No.8 Steven Setephano and winger Fetu’u Vainikolo touched down for the Highlanders.Highlanders five-eighth Mathew Berquist opened the scoring through an 11th-minute penalty and the home side looked destined to open their try account a minute later when Vainikolo sprinted towards the corner.But at last-gasp tackle from Force flanker David Pocock knocked the ball loose just as Vainikolo was about to touch down.Highlanders halfback Jimmy Cowan was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul in the 22nd minute and the Force capitalised on their numerical advantage, with Shepherd reaching full stretch to touch down after a nice inside pass from Chris O’Young.The game showed its first signs of agro when Nathan Sharpe and opposite lock Hayden Triggs engaged in a bit of argy bargy but it was nothing compared to the punch-up between Force prop Pek Cowan and the Highlanders’ Clint Newland five minutes before half-time.While most of the punches missed their marks, both players were sent to the sin bin.But they clearly harboured no ill feelings towards each other, sharing a laugh and a joke while they served their time on the sidelines.The Force took a 10-6 lead into half-time but the Highlanders started the second half full of run, with a Berquist penalty followed by a try to King giving the home side a 14-10 lead.But the Force hit back through O’Connor, who swooped on David Hill’s grubber kick to touch down in the corner.Mistakes were plaguing both sides and Sharpe’s drop from a re-start proved costly as the home side hit back immediately with a try to Setephano.The Force regained the lead when Cross touched down after nine phases of pressure but once again the Highlanders hit back, with a penalty to Berquist giving the home side a 22-20 lead in the 65th minute.But there was yet another twist to the tale, with a superb offload by Force substitute Sam Harris and a strong break by David Pocock leading to a try to Turner, whose crisp passing was crucial in the Force’s strong finish to the match.O’Connor’s conversion made it 27-22 but the Force weren’t done with yet, sealing the win when Cross waltzed through a dysfunctional Highlanders defence in the 76th minute to touch down for his second.Shepherd added his second minutes later before Vainikolo notched a consolation try in the 81st minute.WESTERN FORCE 41 (Ryan Cross 2, Cameron Shepherd 2, James O’Connor, Justin Turner tries O’Connor 4 cons pen) bt HIGHLANDERS 27 (Chris King, Stephen Setephano, Fetuu Vainikolo tries Matthew Berquist 4 pens) at Queenstown Events Centre. Referee: Marius Jonker (RSA).AAP
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