Highlanders win dour Perth encounter




The Highlanders got their 2007 Super 14 campaign off to a winning start, albeit in a less than convincing manner, with a low-key 7-8 win away to the Western Force in Round One on Friday.

Coming into their second season and with a clutch of star signings in the off season this was meant to be the start of an exciting season for the Force. However on the evidence of this display they will do well to equal their league standing of last season.

For the Highlanders this was said to be a game they would struggle to win, which is exactly how it materialised, although not for the class of the Force. Instead both sides conspired to come up with error after error resulting in a very scrappy and slow game.

The game started in the manner it was to continue, with both sides coming up with basic errors, although they were punctuated by two moments of brilliance. The first was a superb outside break from Highlanders fly-half Callum Bruce, although it amounted to nothing as he had no support and was penalised for holding on.

Giteau, the star performer for the Force, provided a glimpse of what he will offer the Force back-line with his first meaningful contribution. Taking the ball standing still and with a line of defenders facing him Giteau managed to beat two with deft footwork, but he too was turned over when his support failed to arrive.

After Bruce gave the Highlanders a 3-0 lead with an simple penalty goal the Force finally found their feet, even though they lost them soon afterwards. Straight from the re-start the Force took control, stringing nine phases together before exposing the space in midfield. As the ball came to James Hilgendorf the defence parted offering him an easy stroll under the posts. Shepherd added the conversion and after just fourteen minutes that was it as far as the Force were concerned.

As the game meandered along there were occasional moments of semi-brillance, for the force they often came from Giteau and Henjak, where as the Highlanders relied on captain Josh Blackie to inspire them. And that is exactly what he did, coming up with their only try after half an hour.

A swift counter attack from the inexperienced Highlanders back-line gave them rare field position and they managed to capitalise on this one occasion. Blackie was the first to arrive at the breakdown and as he drove for the line the cavalry arrived to shunt him over.

The second half was scoreless and uninspiring. The Force will be ruing their missed chances, twice they turned down kickable penalties opting for the line-out. Twice the Highlanders repelled them with stern defence and the steam was gone from the Force.

The Highlanders, with a month on the road, will be happy to have started on a winning note, but both sides will need to improve drastically if they want to be competing for a top four place come the end of the regular season.

Man of the Match: In such a poor encounter it is hard to single out too many players. For the Force Henjak and Giteau were at the top of their games. But for us it was the Highlanders captain Josh Blackie who takes the award. He scored his sides try and was a menace at the breakdown often forcing a turn over or penalty.

The scorers:

For the Western Force:
Try: Hilgendorf
Con: Shepherd

For the Highlanders:
Try: Blackie
Pen: Bruce

Yellow card: Clarke Dermody (Highlanders, 20 – punching)


Western Force: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 James Hilgendorf, 9 Matt Henjak, 8 Scott Fava, 7 Richard Brown, 6 David Pusey, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Rudi Vedelago, 3 Troy Takiari, 2 Brendan Cannon, 1 Gareth Hardy.
Replacements: 16 Tai McIsaac, 17 Angus Scott, 18 Luke Doherty, 19 David Pocock, 20 Chris O’Young, 21 Junior Pelesasa, 22 Haig Sare.

Highlanders: 15 Craig Clare, 14 Lucky Mulipola, 13 Matthew Saunders, 12 Jason Kawau, 11 Viliame Waqaseduadua, 10 Callum Bruce, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Craig Newby, 7 Josh Blackie (c), 6 Hoani MacDonald, 5 James Ryan, 4 Kane Thompson, 3 Clarke Dermody, 2 Jason Macdonald, 1 Chris King
Replacements: 16 David Hall, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Ezra Taylor, 19 Alando Soakai, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Charlie Hore, 22 Greg Zampach

Referee: JC Fortuin (South Africa)
Touch judges: Pro Legoete (South Africa), James Scholtens (Australia)
Television match official: Bradley Wahl (Australia)

365 Digital

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