Stormers bend knee to Highlanders
THE Otago Highlanders extended the Stormers’ losing streak on New Zealand soil to 10 matches yesterday with a 33-15 bonus point win in Dunedin.
The Highlanders ran in five tries to two against the South Africans, including a brace for All Black fullback Aaron Smith, making it two wins from two for the season.
The Stormers now have only one win from four, despite dominating territory, leaving captain Siya Kolisi frustrated at his side’s error rate on attack.
“It’s the same story every time. We didn’t hold onto the ball, we didn’t come away with points when we got to the 22 and they did,” he said.
“We can’t keep making the same mistakes every week.”
Highlanders captain Ben Smith was pleased his players handled the physical challenge meted out by the Stormers, who face the Auckland Blues at home next week.
“They’re big men. We had to match that and we did,” he said.
“We didn’t help ourselves at times [with handling errors] but that’s an easy fix.”
The Stormers conceded early despite coach Robbie Fleck’s remarks before the match about the need to avoid last week’s horror start against the Crusaders, when they let in four tries in the first 20 minutes.
All Black flanker Liam Squire crossed for a five-pointer to finish a movement that began deep within the Highlanders’ own half.
But this time the Stormers rallied to strike back with two tries and take the lead.
The first from Chris van Zyl came after they doggedly worked the ball through 15 phases.
Teenage fly-half Damian Willemse then swooped on a loose pass and sprinted three-quarters of the length of the field as his opposite number Lima Sopoaga chased in vain.
Aaron Smith evened the score at 12-12 after powerhouse winger Waisake Naholo fended off three defenders racing down the touchline to set him up.
Naholo then scored one of his own after winning an aerial duel, off-loading and re-gathering to dot down between the posts.
The Highlanders were 19-15 up at half time and only a desperate Stormers defence prevented them scoring either side of the break.
The pressure eventually told when Luke Whitelock bulldozed his way over the line after a break from centre Rob Thompson. The Highlanders looked to hit on the counter as the Stormers attacked in the final quarter but squandered two gilt-edged opportunities through handling errors.
Aaron Smith then put the result beyond doubt with two minutes to go.
TAKING HIM DOWN: Stormer Damian de Allende, right, is tackled by the Highlanders' Dillon Hunt in their Dunedin match