Highlanders

Stormers win at House of Pain

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South Africa’s Stormers staunchly held out against the desperate Highlanders in the dying minutes of their Super 14 match on Friday to clinch an 18-11 win.


After four losses on their tour to Australia and New Zealand, the two tries to one victory ended the Stormers’ unhappy road trip on a high note, although they remain near the foot of the competition with three wins from 10 rugby games.


New Zealand’s Highlanders were expected to win and the surprise result appears to put an end to any lingering hopes they had of making the semi-finals.


“It’s an outstanding win for our team,” Stormers captain Schalk Burger said afterwards.


“Our season has been a bit of a shocker of late but now we can go back to South Africa with a win.”


A despondent Highlanders captain Jimmy Cowan said the last home game of the season had been a night to forget.


“We just didn’t function right in our set pieces and that kept the Stormers in the game,” he said.


The first half was forgettable as both teams struggled for continuity of possession.


Neither could breach their opponents’ try line and the Highlanders’ 6-0 half time lead was the result of penalties from flyhalf Matthew Berquist in the 25th and 34th minutes.


The Stormers created more opportunities in the opening spell and had a territorial advantage, but were unable to breach the solid Highlanders defence.


The game kicked into a higher gear after the break and the Stormers needed only three minutes to get on the scoreboard through a runaway try to big Fijian winger Sireli Naqelevuki.


An aimless kick by the Highlanders in the opposing half was cleaned up by inside centre Peter Grant, and his pass found Naqelevuki who loped 45 metres to the line.


But the home side bounced back eight minutes later due to some inspired play by fullback Israel Dagg, one of the standout players for the New Zealand side this season.


Dagg cut inside his tackler Grant and fired a cut out pass which found right winger Ben Smith with the line beckoning.


The Stormers had the final word with 10 minutes remaining, giving themselves a seven point cushion when Grant went over to capitalise on wave after wave of attacks against the Highlanders line.


After the forwards could not bulldoze their way over, they spread the ball wide, and a long final pass from Conrad Jantjes found an unmarked Grant.


Sapa-AFP Rugbyweek.com

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