Highlanders storm to victory

28 Mar 2015
Highlanders storm to victory

The Highlanders unleashed their exciting backs to score five tries in a 39-21 victory over the Stormers in Dunedin.

Performances such as these from the Highlanders make you believe they can contend for the title. This was a big win both on the scoreboard and in terms of their progression.

The unstoppable Waisake Naholo notched up two tries with the home crowd particularly enjoying his second effort when he smashed through Cheslin Kolbe and tossed him aside on his way to the line.

Full credit to Kolbe however who stuck at it and put his body on the line time and again in big collisions, unperturbed by the physical stuff coming his way.

This wasn't exactly the way to celebrate Schalk Burger's century of Super Rugby appearances but the veteran flanker had a fine game, full of running in his first start of the season.

His beloved Stormers though were comprehensively beaten, letting in five tries and lacking variation and execution in their attack until it was too late, as they lost to the Highlanders for the first time since 2007.

Knowing that getting bogged down in the set-piece would give the Stormers a huge advantage, the Highlanders looked to move the ball around at every opportunity.

The first quarter nearly ended without any points scored by either side, after Lima Sopoaga had a try disallowed by a knock-on in the build-up by Naholo.

Instead it was the Stormers who struck for the first try, Juan de Jongh just about bringing in a scratchy offload from Burger to cross for the score.

The Highlanders' response was instant though as Aaron Smith produced a cunning bit of play, reaching out to land the ball against the foot of the posts left unguarded by the Stormers defensive line.

Smith's opportunism had tied things up at 7-7 before the Highlanders shifted up a great with ten quick points, first through a Sopoaga penalty and then when Naholo leapt out of the line at the right time to score an interception try. Even the quick-footed Kolbe couldn't catch him

When playing with their tails up the Highlanders are a nightmare to contain. Naholo embodied that when he barged through Kolbe before the half-time hooter to give the New Zealand franchise a huge 24-7 lead.

There was more of the same after the break as Patrick Osborne got in on the act with a close-range drive to secure the bonus point as the contest threatened to get out of hand.

Resistance from the Stormers prevented that. Burger started an attack from inside their own 22 which ended in a yellow card for Aaron Smith and eventually a try for replacement Michael Rhodes after minutes camped close to the line.

Burger was at the heart of everything good about the Stormers, a cute offload out the back setting Kolisi on his way in another attack as the South Africans found their way back into the game.

Sadly for them it was shortlived as the dreadlocked Highlanders replacement Dan Pryor spotted a gap and pinned his ears back to go over after the Stormers lost possession deep in their own half.

A gem of a try from the visitors gave them something to take away from the Forsyth Barr Stadium, inspired by Kolbe. The full-back's pace opened up the space and he combined with Dillan Leyds to give De Jongh a second try.

Marty Banks' penalty then wound down the clock and the Highlanders had their victory, and a fine one as well, while the Stormers will move on and reflect on a second loss of the season.