Highlanders substitute Hayden Parker missed a conversion on the full-time siren as a 13-man Western Force held on for a nail-biting 31-29 win in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash in Dunedin.
The Force looked to have the game in the bag when their fourth try of the night gave them a 31-16 lead after 57 minutes.
But the Highlanders finished the game strongly, with Malakai Fekitoa’s try closing the gap to 10 points, before the Force were dealt a double blow in the 72nd minute when Adam Coleman and Ben McCalman were sent off.
Coleman was sent off for a professional foul, while McCalman was given a yellow card for a spear tackle on prop Kane Hames.
The Force performed well under the pump, but there was no stopping Parker from crossing out wide in the final minute.
However, his conversion attempt from six metres inside touch hit the upright, with the Force players jumping for joy as the final siren sounded.
The result gave Force successive wins for the first time since April 2011, while it also marked their sixth straight triumph over the Highlanders.
A week after scoring four first-half tries against the Rebels, the Force had another three to their name inside 38 minutes.
Hooker Nathan Charles crossed in the fourth minute, before a brilliant intercept from Sias Ebersohn gave the Force their second in the 26th minute.
Three Lima Sopoaga penalties kept the Highlanders in the match, and a brilliant grubber kick from scrumhalf Aaron Smith set up a racing Shaun Treeby for an eye-catching try.
However, Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman was having a shocker.
Coltman was the player at fault in Ebersohn’s try, and his weak tackle allowed McCalman to cross just before half-time.
The Force were cruising when Rasolea crossed in the 57th minute after he was able to collect his own smother on Sopoaga’s clearance.
From that point on it was all about defence from the Force, with their task made daunting when reduced to 13 men.
The Highlanders failed to fully capitalise on the numerical advantage, with their slow play and late miss costing them a share of the spoils.