Highlanders hold on to beat Cats




The Otago Highlanders proved defense wins matches Saturday when they held South Africa’s Cats scoreless for 78 minutes to win their Super 14 rugby match 16-14. The Highlanders led 16-0 at halftime and by the same margin two minutes from the end of normal time, having fought off wave after wave of Cats attacks to clinch their fourth win from seven starts this season.

The Cats spent almost all of the last 50 minutes of the match inside the Otago half and more than 25 minutes inside their 22, winning overwhelming shares of possession and territory without being able to break the long-standing scoring deadlock.

The South Africans finally broke through the Highlanders’ layered defensive screen in the 78th minute for a try by flanker Gerhard Vosloo. They immediately scored again through flyhalf Earl Rose, who kicked both conversions to give his team a bonus point.

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The Cats enjoyed 70 percent of territory and 56 percent of possession, although most of that was garnered in the second spell after a relatively even first half.

The Cats won 125 rucks to the Highlanders’ 76 and that the Highlanders were forced, mainly in the second half, to make 141 tackles to the Cats 76.

“I think if they were any better, if they had held onto the ball a couple of times, we could have been in strife,” said Highlanders captain Anton Oliver. “Our defense was brilliant.

“I’m delighted with the way my guys defended. It showed real heart but we also have to get our hands on the ball a bit. We didn’t see it at all in the second half and we wouldn’t get away with that against a better team.” The Cats had scored only four tries in six games before Saturday’s match, including two in their most recent start against the Canterbury Crusaders. It was clear why as they blew chance after chance with poor handling and finishing and bad option taking.

The Cats had obviously dangerous players in the backline in Rose, who slid through a gap to score their final try, in Grant Esterhuizen, Conrad Jantjes and Jacque Fourie but they persisted in focusing their attack around rucks and mauls.

The Cats were heavily penalized for simple offenses around the tackled ball and repeatedly saw chances go begging when the final pass in a promising movement went to ground.

“We had so much ball inside their 22 that we really should have done better, but the last pass was not sticking and that told today,” said Cats captain Wikus van Heerden.

“There was a lot of guts from our guys and to end a tough five-game tour with a bonus point was great.”  


Otago 16 (Roy Kinikinilau try; Ben Blair conversion, 3 penalties),

Cats 7 (Gerhard Vosloo, Earl Rose tries; Earl Rose 2 conversions).

15 Ben Blair, 14 Roy Kinikinilau, 13 Neil Brew, 12 Jason Kawau, 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Callum Bruce, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Craig Newby, 7 Josh Blackie, 6 Hale T-Pole, 5 James Ryan, 4 Filipo Levi, 3 Clarke Dermody, 2 Anton Oliver (c), 1 Nick White.

Reserves: 16 Jason Macdonald, 17 Carl Hayman, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Chris Smylie/Toby Morland, 21 Ryan Bambry, 22 Seilala Mapusua.

15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Wylie Human, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Wayne Julies, 11 Grant Esterhuizen, 10 Earl Rose, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Cobus Grobbelaar, 7 Wikus van Heerden (c), 6 Gerhard Vosloo, 5 Willem Stoltz, 4 Gordon Gilfillan, 3 Marius Hurter, 2 Delarey du Preez, 1 Pietman van Niekerk.

Reserves: 16 Lukas van Biljon, 17 Lawrence Sephaka, 18 Alten Hulme, 19 Ernst Joubert, 20 Dave von Hoesslin, 21 Doppies la Grange, 22 Tiaan Snyman.

Referee: Paul Marks (Aus)

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