Highlanders take Force apart
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Highlanders ended their tour on a high note when they thrashed the Western Force 55-6 in Perth on Saturday.
The New Zealanders made it eight straight wins, and nine from 12 matches overall this season, by running in eight unanswered tries as they push towards the play-offs.
It was a horror show for the Force, who are living on Super Rugby's death row, and were never in the hunt as Australia's drought against New Zealand teams in 2017 continued.
At one stage the Force were down two men with a pair of players in the sin bin, and they were simply outclassed by the 2015 champions and 2016 semifinalists, who appeared to enjoy the slippery conditions and piled on 38 points in the second half.
It was the Highlanders' biggest ever win and skipper Elliott Dixon was thrilled with the effort.
"We have been working towards an 80-minute performance and it was good to get that," he said.
"It has been a good [few weeks] for us."
The Force were coming off a rare win, against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, but with an already lengthy injury list their hopes took an early dent when they lost Peter Grant to a head knock after just 10 minutes.
The Highlanders were in no mood to be sympathetic and pounced in the 19th minute, with Tevita Li breaking down the sideline for the opening try and his second of the season.
The home team stayed in touch through successive penalties from Ian Prior to close the deficit to 10-6.
In the 36th minute the visitors tightened their grip when Aki Seiuli, a late inclusion in the starting XV, intercepted close to the line and dived over.
Down 6-17 at the break, the Force also had to cope with being a man down after Semisi Masirewa was sent off late in the half.
In the 44th minute, Highlanders speedster Patrick Osborne broke away after a lovely dummy and left the Force players in his wake as he sprinted to the tryline.
The Force had Richie Arnold sent off in the 47th minute and three minutes later Seiuli again celebrated his promotion with a second try as he charged over from five metres out.
The Highlanders then added a further four late tries through Rob Thompson with a double, Dillon Hunt and Richard Buckman as the Force completely folded.
Force captain Bill Meakes was dismayed by the performance.
"It was really embarrassing for us," he said.
"Our workrate wasn't there."
Man of the match: Mart Banks controlled the game nicely, while Elliot Dixon's work rate was impressive throughout the game. However, the award goes to prop Aki Seiuli who scored two tries and made metres whenever he had ball in hand.
For Western Force:
Pens: Prior 2
Tries: Li, Seiuli 2, Osborne, Thompson 2, Hunt, Buckman
Cons: Banks 6
Yellow cards: Semisi Masirewa (Western Force, 39 - cynical play, deliberate knock down); Richie Arnold (Western Force, 47 - foul play, shoulder charge)
Western Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Semisi Masirewa, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes (captain), 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Brynard Stander, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Richie Arnold, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacement: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Lewis Carmichael, 21 Isireli Naisarani, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 James Verity-Amm
Highlanders: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Guy Millar, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Rob Thompson.
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: Ed Martin (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)