The Cheetahs ended their tour of Australasia winless on Saturday, after going down 32-8 to the Highlanders in Dunedin havgin shipped 27 unanswered points in the second half.
The Cheetahs ended their tour of Australasia winless on Saturday, after going down 32-8 to the Highlanders in Dunedin having shipped 27 unanswered points in the second half.
They fought gamely and even led at half-time, but the Highlanders' forward drives and scrummaging proved too strong in the end.
The win could have come at a cost for the home side though, with both Jason Shoemark and Daniel Bowden departing with injuries that looked serious enough to cost them a spell on the sidelines.
It took the Highlanders quite a while to get the upper hand their superiority deserved. Bowden and Matt Berquist missed five shots at goal between them before the latter eventually converted a second-half penalty, while the visitors did at least take their chances.
Jacques-Louis Potgieter opened the scoring with a penalty after Bowden had missed his first kick, but on 20 minutes came a glimpse of the kind of movement that was to win the game, when the Highlanders took a line-out and created that wonderful rarity: a driving maul!
Adam Thomson peeled off the back in textbook fashion and plonked himself over the line for the try.
The Cheetahs lucked out to get their noses back in front after half an hour, when a high kick from Hennie Daniller was spilled by Jimmy Cowan and scooped up by Corne Uys who steamed home.
But by that time the Highlanders were already in the ascendancy. On two separate occasions their scrum destroyed the opposition, on several others the Cheetahs resorted to tricks such as wheeling to help their cause.
Only execution let them down initially, but having tropped into the dressing room at the break 8-5 down the Highlanders came out far tighter after the break.
Israel Dagg took his side back into the lead when he got onto the end of a grubber kick from Berquist, but still the fly-half could not find his range, missing his third kick at goal to follow Bowden's three.
There was an air of controversy about the try as well, with the Cheetahs insistent that Daniller had touched the ball down before Dagg. The heads went down after Dagg's score
Berquist finally landed a penalty to stretch the lead to 13-8 after 50 minutes, and then George Naoupu's fantastic burst and offload was finished off under the posts by Steven Setephano.
Thomson finished off a spell of pressure sparked by Cowan's speedy burst of pace down the middle and continued by Alando Soakai's bullocking run, to bring up the bonus point.
Then Dagg claimed his second, once again after a heavy spell of forward pressure in the left corner. Berquist missed the conversion to leave his stats at three from seven, something fortunately irrelevant.
Man of the match: George Naoupu's physical running and defence was a key factor in gaining his team the upper hand.
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Thomson 2, Dagg 2, Setephano
Cons: Berquist 2
For the Cheetahs:
Try: C. Uys
Highlanders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jason Shoemark, 12 Daniel Bowden, 11 Kendrick Lynn, 10 Matthew Berquist, 9 Jimmy Cowan (c), 8 George Naoupu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Clint Newland, 2 David Hall, 1 Chris King.
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Hayden Triggs, 19 Steven Setephano, 20 Sean Romans, 21 Johnny Leota, 22 Lucky Mulipola.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Danwel Demas, 13 Corne Uys, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Fabian Juries, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Hendro Scholtz (c), 7 Francois Uys, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Wayne van Heerden, 3 Bees Roux, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Kobus Calldo, 18 Nico Breedt, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Hanno Coetzee.
Referee: Paul Marks (Australia)
Touch judges: Keith Brown (New Zealand), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Television match official: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)