A resilient Western Force outfit has gone down to the Crusaders 29-21 in Christchurch.
The Western Australian side headed into tonight’s match as underdogs before quickly stamping their authority on the match when Toni Pulu produced some magic to get his side in front in the opening three minutes.
While their early lead was quickly erased when the Crusaders, who were without All Blacks trio Richie Mo’unga, Sam Whitelock and Sevu Reece, laid on three consecutive tries, a five-pointer late in the second half to Ollie Callan reduced the deficit to just three points.
The Crusaders responded by notching back-to-back tries before Jordan Olowofela gave the Force the last laugh.
The Crusaders, who sit behind the Blues and Hurricanes on the Super Rugby trans-Tasman ladder, needed both a win and a bonus point to keep in touch with the top of the competition.
And it appeared the Crusaders would walk away with both results before Olowofela scored in the shadows of full-time.
“US Open coming up next week, this is like a par five when you’re really looking for a birdie if you’re the Crusaders,” commentator Tony Johnson said.
“The Force have denied them the bonus point they wanted.”
After this weekend’s fixture, just one round remains in the Super Rugby trans-Tasman competition before the final on June 19.