Force eye Super Rugby AU play-offs after late win over Rebels

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Melbourne (AFP)

The Western Force kept alive their claims for the third play-off spot in Super Rugby AU with a last-ditch 16-15 win over the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.

Trailing throughout the game until the final minutes, the Force's Tim Anstee scored the only try of a grinding match off a driving maul to pip the Rebels.

The Rebels tried vainly after the final hooter to chase the winning points but Reece Hodges's drop kick attempt was well wide of the posts and with it went Melbourne's last hope.

It was an attritional game of few highlights with both teams resorting to kicking rather than playing ball in hand.

The Rebels still hold on to third spot behind the Queensland Reds and the ACT Brumbies by virtue of a losing bonus point, with Force just one point behind with two games left to the play-off finals.

"It was a tight game, the Rebels and Force games are always close and tonight's game was a cracker," Force skipper Kyle Godwin said.

"Our defence at the end showed the true spirit of the team and I hope we can take a bit of confidence out of that for next week against the Waratahs."

Reece Hodge opened the scoring with a penalty goal from his own side of halfway and Matt Toomua doubled the lead with another penalty.

Argentine Domingo Miotti posted the Force's first points from a penalty before a lengthy injury stoppage, with winger Byron Ralston left prone on the ground after hitting Lewis Holland's hip in making a tackle.

Ralston was stretchered off the ground before the game could resume.

Toomua kicked the Rebels to a six-point lead with a further penalty goal as Melbourne dominated territory and possession in the first half.

The Force went down a man when Kane Koteka was sin-binned for repeated infringements, but Miotti reduced the margin to three points with his second penalty late in the first half.

In a kick-dominated half, Toomua landed his third penalty to send the Rebels into a 12-6 half-time lead.

Miotti kicked the Force to within three points with his third penalty early in the second term in a game of few attacking thrills.

Toomua slotted over his fourth penalty to keep the Rebels more than a try ahead of the Force midway through the second half.

But Toomua suffered a heavy head knock with blood coming from his nose as he left the field not to return.

The Force made a late push for victory and were rewarded with a driving maul off a lineout won close to the Rebels line and the try credited to Anstee.

Miotti had the kick for the win and guided his conversion attempt between the posts with only minutes left.