The Force continued with their best season yet securing third place on the table after six rounds after they beat the Highlanders by 36 points to 28.
The Force missed out on a bonus point after Scott Staniforth had what looked to be a legitimate try disallowed. Ref Mark Lawrence ruled no try but it did not effect the result of the match after the Force scored 16 unanswered points.
Matt Giteau had an excellent match kicking 100 % of his kicks and he was complemented by Cameron Shepherd who took two long range penalties successfully.
Midway through the second half, the home team looked likely to break their duck when they took a 28-20 lead, but the fast improving Force hit back with a converted try and three late penalties to seal the win.
Both sides scored three tries but the Highlanders paid for their high mistake rate against the Force, fresh off their morale-boosting first away win in NZ against the Auckland Blues last week.
The difference was in the boots of playmaker Matt Giteau, who kicked 15 points, and fullback Cameron Shepherd, who chipped in with two late long-range penalties.
Giteau said the Force were relieved to come out with a win after a patchy performance against the Highlanders, who had lost their previous four matches by less than six points.
"We made it pretty tough for ourselves," flyhalf Giteau said afterwards.
"We didn't play too well but we're still happy to get the win." The early signs were ominous for the Highlanders when they gave away three turnovers at the breakdown in the opening minutes, negating a dominance of territory.
After the Giteau and the Highlanders' Daniel Bowden traded early penalties, the home side scored the first try against the run of play with a brilliant solo try to inside centre Dominic Bowden.
From more than 40 metres out, Bowden sidestepped two defenders to find himself in open space with the line beckoning.
The more consistent Force answered after 25 minutes when lock Tom Hockings crashed over after some good work by halfback James Stannard and outside centre Ryan Cross.
Cross again was in the action when No. 8 Richard Brown touched down after another turnover just out from the Highlanders tryline. A second penalty by Bowden in the last seconds of the spell cut the Highlanders' halftime deficit to 13-17.
The Highlanders came out with renewed purpose after the break, hitting back with two tries in the first 10 minutes of the spell.
Winger Paul Williams scored the first, followed with a superb solo effort by the other winger Fetu'u Vainikolo from 60 metres out, helped by a clever little inside pass from fullback James Wilson.
But the turning point came after 64 minutes when Cross, one of the standouts in the match, snatched an intercept pass from 41 metres out before sprinting untouched to the line.
Pen - Daniel Bowden (3)
Pen - Matt Giteau (3),Cameron Shepherd (2)
Events Centre, Queenstown
Highlanders v Force
Referee: Mark Lawrence (SA)
Asst. referees: Willie Roos, Keith Brown
TMO: Shane McDermott (NZ)
Assessor: Kim Eichman (NZ)
15. James Wilson ,14. Paul Williams ,13. Niva Ta’auso,12. Aaron Bancroft,11. Fetu’u Vainikolo,10. Daniel Bowden,9. Jimmy Cowan (VC ),8. Steven Setephano ,7. Tim Boys,6. Craig Newby ( C ),5. Tom Donnelly,4. Hoani MacDonald,3. Chris King,2. Jason Macdonald,1. Jamie Mackintosh
Reserves: 16. David Hall,17. Keith Cameron,18. Hayden Triggs,19. Adam Thomson,20. Toby Morland,21. Mike Delany,22. Brett Mather
1. Pek Cowan,2. Tai McIsaac,3. AJ Whalley,4. Tom Hockings,5. Nathan Sharpe (c),6. Tamaiti Horua,7. David Pocock,8. Richard Brown,9. James Stannard,10. Matt Giteau (vc),11. Drew Mitchell,12. Lachlan MacKay,13. Ryan Cross,14. Scott Staniforth,15. Cameron Shepherd
Reserves:16. Luke Holmes,17. Troy Takiari,18. Sam Wykes,19. Scott Fava,20. Matt Hodgson,21. Scott Daruda,22. Nick Cummins