Western Force showcased their trademark grit, but it was to no avail as the Chiefs secured a 35-27 bonus-point win in Friday night’s Super Rugby clash in Hamilton.
The Force were reduced to 14 men in the 29th minute when halfback Ian Prior was red carded for a dangerous tip tackle on Tim Nanai-Williams.
Nanai-Williams landed on his head and shoulder in the incident, but he was able to play on.
The Force had given a good account of themselves up until that point, winning the territory battle and being rewarded with a 15th-minute try to flanker Angus Cottrell.
After Prior was sent off, it was always going to be an uphill battle to get anything out of the match.
And a romp of epic proportions looked to be on the cards when the Chiefs extended the gap to 30-8 early in the second half.
But to the Force’s credit, they fought on valiantly to score three second-half tries, giving them a four-try bonus point.
Had Luke Burton nailed a sideline conversion in the 78th minute, the margin would have been just six points.
But his miss allowed the Chiefs to escape with victory.
The result was the Force’s ninth straight defeat – a sad way to mark the 100th Super Rugby appearance of prop Pek Cowan.
A loss to the Blues in Auckland next week would consign the Force to their worst losing run, eclipsing the nine straight losses in their inaugural year of 2006.
In contrast, the Chiefs sit on top of the table after improving their record to 8-2.
The Force made a bright start to the match, but the hot boot of Chiefs five-eighth Marty McKenzie ensured the home side kept the score ticking along early.
Prior’s brain implosion delivered a cruel blow to the Force, with a try to Hika Elliot shortly before halftime and a penalty try after the break putting the Chiefs in control.
The Force looked stunned and bereft of answers at that point.
But a 70m team try to Luke Morahan in the 56th minute sparked life into the Force, with skipper Matt Hodgson and reserve hooker Heath Tessmann also scoring to make matters interesting.