Force hold on for Rebels win
Melbourne Rebels were unable to give captain Scott Higginbotham a triumphant farewell as they were edged out 13-11 by Western Force in the final match of their Super Rugby season.
Australia international Higginbotham will spend the next two years plying his trade in Japan, but his time at the Rebels ended on a losing note thanks to a try from Luke Morahan plus eight points from the boot of Zack Holmes.
Telusa Veainu's late score raised hopes of a Rebels' fightback, but basement side the Force held on for only their third win of the campaign.
Pride alone was at stake at AAMI Park on Friday with both teams missing out on the play-offs, and it was Perth-based the Force who gained the early advantage with a successful penalty from Holmes.
Any hopes of a high-scoring contest were quickly extinguished, however, as a scrappy affair ensued before Mike Harris was able to level the scores after 14 minutes.
Holmes then landed a second penalty three minutes later to restore the Force's advantage and they defended that 6-3 lead until the interval.
The second half at least showed signs of improvement, with the Rebels in particular trying hard to turn possession into points. And they succeeded by winning a penalty 12 minutes in, which Harris nailed to once more even up the scores.
However, Harris missed a further kick 10 minutes later as the Rebels pushed to get their noses in front and they were punished within minutes when Marcel Brache's interception set up Morahan for the opening try, with Holmes slotting the extras.
That gave the Force a 13-6 advantage, which was cut to two points nine minutes from time when Veainu slid over in the corner for a well-deserved Rebels try.
Harris put the conversion wide, though, and also missed a drop goal attempt as the visitors rode out a late storm.