Stormers stay perfect
Highlanders brushed aside at Invercargill
Last Updated: 07/04/12 11:54am
Bryan Habana bursts through a gap against Highlanders
An efficient Stormers side maintained their perfect record in the Super 15 competition after overcoming the Highlanders 21-6 in Dunedin.
The South African outfit scored two tries to none and were too slick and organised for the hosts as they claimed their sixth consecutive victory.
It was the Highlanders' second loss in seven games, and their first at home, as they failed to fire and were kept tryless for the first time this season.
Full-back Joe Pietersen was outstanding for the Stormers and lock Andries Bekker ruled the lineouts. The Highlanders were disappointing, both in attack and defence, and seemed strangely out of sorts.
Both teams made just one change from the previous round in which the Stormers beat the Bulls 20-17 in Cape Town and the Highlanders thrashed the Melbourne Rebels 43-12 in Invercargill.
The Stormers started well and Pietersen opened the scoring with a penalty after five minutes when Chris King was ruled offside.
The visitors then scored the first try after 12 minutes when a pass from Hosea Gear to Chris Noakes went astray, the ball was kicked ahead and wing Gio Aplon won the race to the loose ball to score and increase the lead to 8-0.
The Highlanders got on the board after 15 minutes with an angled penalty from Noakes but they were struggling against the size and swarming defence of the Stormers.
The home team suffered a major loss after 24 minutes when outstanding full-back Ben Smith was forced from the field with a head knock and was replaced by Buxton Popoali'i.
And their cause was not helped when Noakes missed two kickable penalties within a few minutes.
The Stormers increased their lead to 15-3 after 33 minutes with a brilliant counter-attacking try which swept 90 metres. Pietersen gathered in a chip-kick from Aaron Smith and set in motion an attack which ended with him gathering his own kick ahead and scoring midway out. Peter Grant converted.
Noakes kicked an angled penalty after 38 minutes but the Stormers went into half-time with a useful 15-6 lead.
The Highlanders had a decisive edge in territory and possession and won the breakdowns 61-27. But they were careless with the possession and kicked too often, and badly.
They began the second spell with more enthusiasm but the Stormers absorbed their attacks and, after 10 minutes, Grant kicked a penalty to make it 18-6.
Jimmy Cowan subbed Aaron Smith 15 minutes into the half and became the second Highlander (after Anton Oliver) to play 100 games for the franchise.
They lost their captain soon after, Jamie Mackintosh being replaced by Ma'afu Fia after suffering a hand injury.
Hooker Tiaan Liebenberg was sin-binned for a professional foul as the Highlanders attacked 14 minutes from the end but the Highlanders were unable to win the vital possessions.
The Stormers made the game safe nine minutes from the end when King was penalised for an early tackle and Grant goaled from 30 metres to extend the lead to 21-6.
Tamati Ellison had a late try ruled out by the television match official and that about summed up their night.