Auckland - Scrumhalf Justin Turner, centre Ryan Cross and winger Cameron Shepherd all scored late tries to help the Western Force to a 41-27 victory over the Highlanders in their Super 14 match in Queenstown on Saturday.
All three tries came in the final eight minutes to blow open a close scoreline in an otherwise scrappy match punctuated by penalties, handling errors with referee Marius Jonker issuing three yellow cards in the first half.
Cross and Shepherd had also scored earlier tries, while Force fullback James O'Connor also scored a try and added four conversions and a penalty for the visitors.
"It was pretty scrappy, I don't think the game got to the heights we expected but we will take the five points," Force captain Nathan Sharpe said in a televised interview.
Flyhalf Matt Berquist had slotted two early penalties for the home side, who were pinned inside their own territory for much of the first half, but the Force only led 10-6 at the break courtesy of Shepherd's first try and a conversion and penalty to O'Connor.
The Force were also denied a try to hooker Benn Whittaker after television match official James McPhail ruled he had lost control of the ball as he attempted to force it.
Berquist slotted his third penalty early in the second half before McPhail awarded tries to Highlanders prop Chris King and then the Force's O'Connor within three minutes.
The lead then changed hands three times inside 10 minutes with Highlanders number eight Stephen Setephano crossing for a try to give the home side a 19-15 lead.
Cross then replied with his first try after some patient buildup for a 20-19 lead, before Berquist struck his fourth penalty to give the Highlanders a 22-20 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
The Force, however, sealed the match in the final 10 minutes before Highlanders' Fetu'u Vainikolo was awarded a late try in the corner, again after consultation with McPhail given the winger had taken out the corner flag.
"Very disappointing, our defence probably slipped in that final 10 minutes. Before that we were in the game," Highlanders captain Jimmy Cowan said.
"Credit to the Force they pinned us in our territory ... and scored some good tries."
Tries: Cameron Shepherd (2), James O'Connor, Ryan Cross (2), Justin Turner; Conversions: O'Connor (4); Penalty: O'Connor
Tries: Chris King, Stephen Setephano, Fetu'u Vainikolo; Penalties: Matt Berquist (4);