Naholo, Osborne power Highlanders home
Saturday, March 28, 2015 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
It seemed the Stormers were about to inflict a heavy night of punishment on the home team as they sought and succeeded in tying the home team to early hard, physical contact.
Dominating the early possession the Stormers turned it on, and there was no surprise when Schalk Burger, the veteran Stormers and Springbok blindside flanker who was celebrating his 100th Super Rugby game, got a mid-field off-load away to centre Juan de Jongh who cut back in to score the first try of the game, in the 17th minute.
However, the momentum shifted immediately to the Highlanders at the re-start when a lack of communication saw the ball bounce free. The home team secured it and prop Josh Hohneck should have scored but lost the ball with the line clear.
The Highlanders maintained the pressure and in another rush at the line after second five-eighths Shaun Treeby went close to scoring, it was halfback Aaron Smith who dashed around a ruck and placed the ball at the base of the posts to score. The Stormers' reaction suggested a lack of basic rugby knowledge.
First five-eighths Lima Sopoaga landed a 31st minute penalty goal before a vital breakthrough for the home team. In attempting to run ball at the Highlanders after the restart de Jongh attempted a long pass only to see it fall easily to Naholo. No-one looked like stopping him, and they didn't.
It was all Highlanders as they continually ran the ball back at the visitors and fullback Ben Smith went close, only to knock the ball on. But more points weren't long coming after Aaron Smith ran the blind, kicked ahead only to have it rebound to Naholo who raced ahead and bounced Stormers fullback Cheslin Kolbe as if he wasn't there to score the try.
Into the second half the Stormers looked to get back in the game through their maul, but it didn't work as the Highlanders ran ball again at every opportunity and a spell of more than a dozen phases resulted in a scrum which provided the impetus for Osborne to charge over the line in Burger's tackle to register the bonus point try.
Around the three-quarter mark the Stormers, having won a penalty which saw halfback Aaron Smith sin-binned, looked to maul over the line, but there was no evidence the ball was grounded. But after two penalty scrum options they got replacement flanker Michael Rhodes over the line.
In the midst of all the action there was time enough for starting debut flanker James Lentjes to demonstrate the quality of flankers continues unabated in the New Zealand game.
The southerners faced some formidable opponents in Burger, Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr, and even after losing skipper Nasi Manu to concussion in the first half, the home strength wasn't diminished as Dan Pryor, who put his basic speed to good use, scored a superb try in the 71st minute. He relished the chance for extended game time in the company of Lentjes and the consistent Elliott Dixon.
Kolbe at fullback had a torrid night, having had to deal with the wing behemoths, a severe blow to his shin in a contest for the ball and then he played a key role in setting up de Jongh for his second try of the night.
Scorers: Highlanders 39 (Aaron Smith, Waisake Naholo 2, Patrick Osborne, Dan Pryor tries; Lima Sopoaga 4 con, pen; Marty Banks pen) Stormers 21 (Juan de Jongh 2, Michael Rhodes tries; Demetri Catrakillis con; Kurt Coleman 2 con). HT: 24-7
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