Highlanders run Stormers ragged
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Highlanders ran the Stormers ragged to produce an emphatic 57-14 win in Dunedin on Friday.
The result stretched the Stormers' losing streak in New Zealand to a record eighth defeat - going back to 2013 for their last win.
The Stormers had enough possession and certainly some great opportunities.
However, they were predictable and naive in their tactics - playing too much in their own half and using one-up runners ad nauseam.
In contrast, the Highlanders were astute enough to win the territorial battle and found it easier to turn their opportunities into points, because they did not have to score them from more than 50 metres out.
They were also far more clinical on the counter attack.
The Stormers opened an early 7-0 lead, but soon fell off the pace to slump to their third consecutive loss if the season.
They have conceded 143 points and 21 tries in their last three games - while scoring just 54 points and six tries. That's an average 18-48 loss - a dramatic slump since their much-hyped win over the Chiefs in Round Seven.
They still comfortably lead the Africa One conference, but have lost the momentum they built winning their opening six matches of the season.
In contrast, the Highlanders had a shaky start but have now racked up five straight victories and are showing the attacking potency that won the 2015 title.
The win also maintains New Zealand teams' unblemished record on home soil in 13 matches against overseas opposition this season.
The statistic underlines the challenge facing the British and Irish Lions as they seek to breach Fortress New Zealand mentality during their June-July tour.
The Stormers came out firing, determined not to repeat the slow start that led to last week's 57-24 demolition by the Crusaders.
They were rewarded in the seventh minute when Siya Kolisi went on a defence-busting run, then flicked a backhanded offload to set up Nizaam Carr's try.
The Highlanders hit back almost immediately, sending the ball through seven pairs of hands for Patrick Osborne to touch down in his 50th Super Rugby match for the hosts.
Waisake Naholo followed up with another after the Highlanders won a dubious line-out penalty to put themselves in a prime attacking position.
Osborne scored a second five-pointer off the back of a stray Stormers' kick, then Liam Squires crossed after the Highlanders set up a driving maul.
Osborne then set up the Highlander's fifth try, holding off two defenders to palm off the ball to Rob Thompson, who sent them into the break 31-7.
The nightmare continued for the Stormers after the break, with tries to Naholo, Dillon Hunt, Greg Pleasants-Tate and Matt Faddes.
A late consolation try to Dewaldt Duvenage did little to take the sting from a humiliating scoreline for the Stormers.
Man of the match: Nizaam Carr produced an impressive workrate, while Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth added some muscle. There were the usual suspects - like Ben and Aaron Smith - that had a big influence on the game. Patrick Osborne produced a game to match one of the most impressive moustaches in an interesting array of facial hair at the Dunedin encounter. And Waisake Naholo also got a double. The most productive player was Highlanders No.8 Liam Squire - who wins our award.
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Osborne 2, Naholo 2, Squire, Thompson, Hunt, Pleasants-Tate, Faddes
Cons: Banks 6
For the Stormers:
Tries: Carr, Duvenage
Cons: Du Preez 2
Yellow card: Aki Seiuli (Highlanders, 58 - foul play, high tackle)
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes.
Stormers: 15 Sarel Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Jan de Klerk, 4 Eben Etzebeth (vice-captain), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oliver Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Shaun Treeby (Stormers debut), 23 Bjorn Basson.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)