Highlanders smash the Force

Saturday May 20, 2017

The Highlanders have easily outclassed the Western Force to notch a club record 55-6 victory at nib Stadium in Perth this evening.

The Dunedin-based side made the most of the wet conditions for a new franchise record 49-point win margin, scoring eight tries to nil which helped them remain alive for a wildcard place in the Super Rugby finals.

Late replacement prop Aki Seiuli and Rob Thompson both bagged doubles, while fly-half Marty Banks slotted seven of his eight goal attempts.

Seiuli, named as player of the match, crossed the line either side of half time with fairly easy line breaks on both occasions, while Thompson round out the record win as he touched down for his second after the full time siren.

The Western Force missed their chances crossing the try-line and relied on two penalty goals as their only scoring opportunities.

Highlanders lock Tom Franklin took the field for his 50th Super Rugby cap. Aaron Smith was rested and named on the bench, having toiled hard on the recent South African journey.

A good-old fashioned kicking contest developed in the early stages as both fly-halves attempted to gain an advantage from a possible handling error.

The home side briefly gained the upper hand though were unable to breach the try-line.

Ian Prior missed his first shot at penalty goal, while Peter Grant left the field moments later due to concussion and was unable to return.

Banks meanwhile provided the visitors with their best chance of snaring the opening five-pointer when he cleverly chipped to Patrick Osborne in the left corner.

The bounce however evaded Osborne’s grasp before they went back for a successful penalty goal attempt.

Matt Faddes and Malakai Fekitoa soon after combined to put Tevita Li over in the right corner, and with Banks converting the lead was 10-nil after 22 minutes.

The Force were able to respond through two penalty goals from Prior, the first came from an offside penalty while the second was for a scrum infringement as news filtered through Grant would not be able to return tonight.

Five minutes before the break, the Highlanders once again exposed the Force defence with Seiuli strolling through for his first five-pointer. Banks ensured the visitors led 17-6 with the successful conversion.

Semisi Masirewa meanwhile was given a yellow card just before half time for a deliberate knock-down. Highlanders’ players asked for a penalty try but it was refuted by the referee.

The forecast rain came as the second forty began but it did not deter the visitors as Osborne dummied and sprinted to the try-line while several Force players appealed for obstruction on Billy Meakes in the lead-up.

Force lock Richie Arnold was also given 10 minutes on the sidelines for a professional foul, leaving his side with only 13 to defend what had become a rampant Highlanders attack.

Seiuli crossed for his second in the 51st minute and was quickly followed by Rob Thompson, Dillon Hunt and Richard Buckman for a 50-6 lead going into the last ten.

Thompson then capped off the night after the final siren with his second run-away five pointer.

Next week, the Western Force travel to Brisbane for a showdown with the Queensland Reds on Friday evening, while the Highlanders return home to tackle the NSW Waratahs on Saturday.

2017 Super Rugby – Round 13:

Highlanders – 55
Tries: Aki Seiuli (2), Rob Thompson (2), Tevita Li, Patrick Osborne, Dillon Hunt, Richard Buckman
Conversions: Marty Banks 6/7, Lima Sopoaga 0/1
Penalty Goals: Marty Banks 1/1
Drop Goals: nil

Western Force – 6
Tries: nil
Conversions: nil
Penalty Goals: Ian Prior 2/3
Drop Goals: nil
Yellow Cards: Semisi Masirewa (39th min), Richie Arnold (48th min)

Crowd: 9,814 @ nib Stadium, Perth
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (JPN)
Half Time: Highlanders 17-6.

Western Force: 1 Pekahou Cowan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau (c), 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 4 Richie Arnold, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 7 Brynard Stander, 8 Richard Hardwick, 9 Ian Prior, 10 Peter Grant, 11 Alex Newsome, 12 Billy Meakes, 13 Curtis Rona, 14 Semisi Masirewa, 15 Luke Morahan. Reserves: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francios van Wyk, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Matthew Philip, 20 Lewis Carmichael, 21 Isireli Naisarani, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 James Verity-Amm.

Highlanders: 1 Aki Seiuli, 2 Liam Coltman, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 4 Alex Ainley, 5 Tom Franklin, 6 Gareth Evans, 7 Dillon Hunt, 8 Elliot Dixon (c), 9 Kayne Hammington, 10 Marty Banks, 11 Tevita Li, 12 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 14 Patrick Osborne, 15 Matt Faddes. Reserves: 16 Ash Dixon (c), 17 Guy Millar, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Rob Thompson.