A length-of-the-field Luke Morahan try ruined Melbourne Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham’s farewell on Friday night as the Western Force scored an upset 13-11 Super Rugby win.
Higginbotham, who will join Japanese club NEC Green Rockets after the World Cup, was one of his side’s best at AAMI Park.
But the Wallabies back-rower was denied a winning swansong by two superb individual acts from Morahan.
The Force winger first calmly collected a chip kick from Higginbotham, who was in a great position to grab the opening try after a clearing kick fell his way in the second half.
Then 18 minutes later when the Rebels were at their most threatening, Morahan dashed away straight down the middle to score after a Marcel Brache intercept to give his side a 13-6 lead.
Telusa Veainu, who was lively in his second game for Melbourne, came off the bench to cross in the corner in the 72nd minute to make things interesting.
However, Mike Harris failed to convert.
Harris was at the fore of a thrilling finish, but his drop goal attempt went wide and the Rebels were unable to muster another charge.
The fullback slotted two of four penalty goals for Melbourne, while Force flyhalf Zack Holmes had a faultless game with the boot with a conversion and two penalties.
“They kept us honest and it was a cracking last game,” Higginbotham said during a post-match presentation to him.
“I hope to see you guys in a couple of years.”
Rebels coach Tony McGahan named an unchanged side, but had to make do without Wallaby Dom Shipperley, Bryce Hegarty and Lopeti Timani for most of the game.
Shipperley was a late scratching due to a quad injury, while winger Hegarty and lock Timani were both concussed early in the first half and unable to return.
The opening stanza was riddled with handling errors and penalties.
The Force led 6-3 at halftime after the television match official (TMO) had a big say in proceedings.
Rebels winger Cam Crawford looked to have scored the game’s opening try in the 31st minute, following up a brilliant run with a show of strength on the line.
It was disallowed by the TMO, who penalised Tom English for obstruction.
The visitors then celebrated prop Chris Heiberg’s bulldozing effort, only for replays to confirm Sam Jeffries had somehow slipped an arm under the ball.