Highlanders too strong for Western Force

Highlanders prop Aki Seiuli scored two tries as they completed a rousing 55-6 bonus-point victory over Western Force in their Super Rugby clash in Perth.

The eight-try romp saw wing Tevita Li, fullback Patrick Osborne and his replacement Rob Thompson (two), flank Dillon Hunt and centre Richard Buckman also cross the line.

The Highlanders have now moved 10 points clear of the Blues in the fourth playoff spot in the New Zealand Conference after 12 matches, significantly boosting their chances of making the knockout stages.

The victory is the eighth in succession for the 2015 Super Rugby champions, who had started the campaign miserably with three defeats in their opening four games.

Flyhalf Marty Banks put the visitors ahead with a penalty before they scored their opening try as Li found space out wide after some quick hands in the backline and crossed for an easy score.

Two penalties from scrumhalf Ian Prior brought the Force to within four points of the Highlanders, but that was as close as they got as the Dunedin-based side began to dominate territory and possession.

Force centre Bill Meakes had executed a fine steal at the breakdown five yards from his own tryline, but his subsequent pass was intercepted by rampaging prop Seiuli and he barged his way over to score as the visitors went into halftime 17-6 ahead.

The play was loose at the start of the second period and, with Force wing Semisi Masirewa sent to the sin-bin just before the break, there were gaps to exploit in the home defence.

Osborne found a big one and had too much pace for the covering defence as he ran 50m to score, after which Seiuli grabbed his second.

By that time the wilting home side had lock Richie Arnold also sent to the sin-bin for a no arms tackle, briefly reducing them to 13 players.

Thompson had a hand in the next two tries for the visitors, scoring the first and then providing a mazy run that almost ended in an excellent solo effort before he was hauled just short and Hunt picked the ball up to score.

Buckman grabbed the Highlanders' seventh try when another Meakes pass was intercepted and he raced clear, before Thompson grabbed his second after the hooter.



Photo: Photosport Tony Brown has been appointed Highlanders coach.