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22 Mar 2008 07:32
Australia’s Western Force piled on 16 unanswered points in the last quarter to beat New Zealand’s Otago Highlanders 36-28 in a Super 14 match at Queenstown on Saturday.
The Force trailed 28-20 with just 14 minutes to go but scored a late converted try and booted three penalties to cement their place in the top four and leave the Highlanders in last spot nearing the halfway stage of the competition.
The Highlanders looked to be on course for an upset victory when their wingers Paul Williams and Fetu’u Vainikolo both crossed early in the second half before an opportunist try allowed the Force to regain control.
Former rugby league convert Ryan Cross sprinted 40m to score untouched after intercepting a loose pass and Matt Giteau and Cameron Shepherd then kicked the visitors to their fourth win of the season.
“It was a tough game, we didn’t play that well but we were still happy to get the win,” Giteau said in a televised interview.
“We’ve still got a lot to build on but we’re building momentum and we’ve got a lot of home games now so we’re really happy.”
The teams scored three tries apiece but Otago’s ill-discipline cost them dearly as the Force landed all eight shots at goal.
“They’re a good side but it’s disappointing that we couldn’t hold them out at the end there,” Otago captain Craig Newby said.
“There’s no lack of belief. We know we’ve got a good side here but sometimes at this level it’s pretty hard to win.”
Otago made an encouraging start when inside centre Aaron Bancroft sidestepped two defenders to score the opening try in the 13th minute.
The Force hit back with five-pointers from lock Tom Hockings and number eight Richard Brown to lead 17-13 at the break but conceded 15 points in a row, including a spectacular 60m solo try from Vainikolo.
Luck seemed against the Force when they had two tries disallowed but they stormed home in the final quarter to end their New Zealand visit with two victories.
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