The Western Force recorded a 13-11 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The visitors came into this Australian derby with just two victories to their name and on the back of a three-match losing streak, while the Rebels were heavily favoured after they ended the Vodacom Bulls' play-off aspirations with a 21-20 win last week.
The contest itself was a scrappy affair, with numerous breakdown infringements and handling errors. Both sides looked equally incompetent throughout and a draw would probably have sufficed. But the men from Perth scored a late converted try through Luke Morahan to end the season on a high.
The Force had a great start to the match, when they secured Zack Holmes' kick-off and won a penalty early on. Holmes put them in the lead off the kicking tee in the second minute, only for Mike Harris to cancel out his effort with a penalty goal of his own at the other end. But the Force wrestled back into the lead with a second successful penalty.
A moment of controversy followed when Cam Crawford was denied a try after the TMO Peter Marshall ruled there was an obstruction on one of the Force tacklers in the buildup and the Force headed into the break 6-3 up.
There wasn't much action in the second half either. Harris levelled the scores at 6-6 in the 53rd minute and the game looked set to end in a draw. But with 15 minutes remaining, outside centre Marcel Brache read play beautifully and intercepted the ball inside the Force 22. He drew two Rebels defenders before offloading to Morahan who raced away to dot down in the left-hand corner and Holmes converted.
The hosts responded with a try by replacement winger Telusa Veainu, but Harris missed the conversion. The fullback was afforded another opportunity to snatch the win, but his last-gasp drop goal straight in front was wide of the target. The result, however, wasn't enough to lift the Force off the bottom of the log.
Rebels – Try: Telusa Veainu. Penalties: Mike Harris (2).
Force – Try: Luke Morahan. Conversion: Zack Holmes. Penalties: Holmes (2).
Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Bryce Hegarty, 13 Dom Shipperley, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Cam Crawford, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs:16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Jordy Reid, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Tom English.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Chris Alcock, 5 Steve Mafi, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs (one to be omitted): 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Patrick Dellit, 24 Oliver Hoskins.
Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images