Highlanders pipped by Stormers in thriller
May 3, 2014
Scarra Ntubeni gets a lift from a Stormers team-mate
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Victorious against the top team a week ago, the Highlanders were tripped up by the bottom side in Super Rugby with a 29-28 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town. Both sides scored four tries in an entertaining spectacle which swung on two key yellow cards in the second half.
The Highlanders suffered their fourth loss from nine games but snared two bonus points to remain in eighth place and part of a logjam of teams from second to 10th separated by just six points.
The Stormers' third win of the season - their sixth in succession against the Highlanders - has them above just South African rivals the Cheetahs on points difference at the bottom of the table. They led 19-14 at halftime and ultimately won through the game's only penalty goal, landed by replacement Peter Grant in the 66th minute.
The visitors couldn't match their heady performance in toppling the Sharks in Durban the previous weekend, making too many mistakes which left them camped in defence for long periods.
The Highlanders paid the price for making too many errors (video in Australia only)
Stormers prop Frans Malherbe broke his Super Rugby try duck with a double in the opening half-hour, the second set up by a delightful no-look flick by veteran flanker Schalk Burger. Wing Damian de Allende scored from a Stormers overlap but wing Trent Renata defied a lack of possession for the Highlanders with a try on the stroke of half-time.
It was their second of the half after scrum-half Aaron Smith's superb solo try from a chip and regather. Reserve prop Olivier Kebble drove across for the Stormers' fourth try in the 49th minute before momentum swung against the hosts when hooker Siyabonga Ntubeni was sent to the sin bin for his team's persistent offending.
Highlanders took advantage through tries to fullback Ben Smith, from an Aaron Smith grubber kick, and centre Malakai Fekitoa which put them 28-26 ahead. However, they found themselves a man down themselves when reserve hooker Brayden Mitchell committed a lifting tackle. He was shown a yellow card and was later cited by the SANZAR commissioner. Grant slotted three points from the incident and his team held on, prompting mixed emotions from Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith.
"We'd like to have taken two wins on this tour but it's good to get away from Africa with six points," he said.
They return to Dunedin to face the Lions.