Highlanders hold off Bulls
Steyn has rare off-day with the boot on his 100th appearance
Last Updated: 19/05/12 10:26am
Mike Delany kicked three penalties and a conversion as the Highlanders claimed a hard-earned 16-11 win over the Bulls at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The victory meant the Highlanders kept their play-off hopes alive against the competition-leading Bulls.
The Highlanders, who were 11 points behind the Bulls before the game, made four changes to the team which lost to the Hurricanes while Morne Steyn was playing his 100th game for the Pretoria-based side.
Steyn hit the left upright with his first penalty after five minutes but he was on target nine minutes later to open the Bulls' scoring.
The Highlanders had plenty of possession in the first quarter but they found their opponents' defence difficult to break down.
The hosts had some reward after 26 minutes when Delany kicked a 25-metre penalty after a lengthy period in attack.
But Steyn regained the lead for the Bulls after 37 minutes with a penalty from 22m out.
The Highlanders' lineout was misfiring and that was one of the factors preventing them from converting pressure into points, while the visitors were content mostly to hoist the ball high and wait for the Highlanders to make mistakes.
Jamie Joseph's men had an edge in territory and possession and had done enough to be in the lead but four lost lineouts did not help their cause. They had off-loaded eight times to none but the Bulls defence had not faltered.
The Highlanders swept on to attack early in the second half and Delany kicked his second penalty to tie the scores at 6-6. But tries remained elusive against the suffocating Bulls defence.
Lock Nick Crosswell was substituted by Hoani MacDonald shortly after the interval, while Andrew Hore came on for Jason Rutledge at the same time.
Bulls prop Dean Greyling was sin binned for obstruction at a ruck and, from an ensuing scrum, the Highlanders moved the ball wide and lock Jarrad Hoeata was just denied a try by the television match official.
But he did score a minute later when, from another attacking scrum, he took the last pass and burrowed over close to the posts. Delany converted and the Highlanders led 13-6 with 15 minutes remaining.
Siale Piutau was replaced by Kenny Lynn, who was playing his first game of the season, as the Bulls lifted their urgency.
Delany increased the Highlanders lead to 16-6 when he kicked his third penalty, this one from 40m, when the Bulls infringed at a ruck.
Greyling lost the ball as he plunged at the line but replacement hooker Willie Wepener crashed through the middle of the ruck six minutes from time to set up a tense finale but the hosts held on in the dying stages.