Rebels stop Force's five-game winning run
Melbourne Rebels fullback Jason Woodward runs with the ball in Melbourne on February 28, 2014 - by Paul Crock
Woodward scored 17 points from five penalties and a conversion as the Rebels held on to nudge out the Force after both teams scored a try each in a dour contest.
The Rebels made amends for their early-season 32-7 humiliation against Force.
It was their third win of the season and kept them on the bottom of the Australian conference along with the Queensland Reds, who have a bye this weekend.
Melbourne dominated the first half except on the scoreboard with the teams locked at 6-6 at halftime.
The Rebels didn't get across the try-line until the 61st minute and they relied on Woodward kicking penalties to keep them in front.
Skipper Scott Higginbotham charged over from the back of the scrum to put the Rebels 19-9 ahead with 20 minutes left.
The Melbourne scrum was dominant against the Force with lock Luke Jones prominent with a game-high 16 runs.
The Force, missing scrum-half Alby Mathewson (ankle), lock Sam Wykes (rib) and winger Luke Morahan (hamstring), also struggled to score a try with South African fly-half Sias Ebersohn keeping them in the game.
The Force hammered haway in the second half, but the home side's defence held firm.
Western Force looked to have run out of steam on the back of their winning run, which included the scalp of the NSW Waratahs in Perth last weekend.
Force winger Nick Cummins crossed after the full-time siren to ensure an important losing bonus point and keep them in second place in the Australian conference ahead of the Waratahs match against the Northern Bulls in Sydney on Saturday.
Higginbotham said the win was overdue after a run of back-to-back losses, including to the champions Waikato Chiefs last round.
"The scrum was fantastic and we really built on that," Higginbotham said.
"The boys had a tough time in New Zealand so to come back here and really put it on, it was good for them.
"It was time for us to get a win."
Force skipper Matt Hodgson believed his team was 10 percent off their game and they now had eight days to prepare for their home match with South Africa's Northern Bulls in Perth.