Planet Rugby

Highlanders add to Cheetahs' woes

08th April 2011 08:03

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Adam Thomson highlanders

Highlanders brace: Adam Thomson

The Cheetahs came close but suffered yet another Super Rugby loss after going down to the Highlanders 24-21 in Dunedin on Friday.

The agonising defeat is the struggling South African side's seventh in eight outings so far in 2011, which keeps them firmly rooted to the bottom of the table.

Once again, it wasn't all one-way traffic for the Cheetahs' opposition and the Highlanders had some work to do in the second half after leading 17-14 at half-time.

But too many missed tackles and handling errors after the break from the visitors, coupled with a second try to Adam Thomson looked to secure another Highlanders win.

However, the Cheetahs - after failing with two penalty attempts in a bid to steal a losing bonus point - got an even better deal thanks to a try by wing Philip Burger besides the posts.

Sias Ebersohn's conversion made it a three-point ball game with four minutes left on the clock. So instead of the Cheetahs hunting for a losing bonus point, they were now threatening an upset win.

However, a wobbly line-out from the Cheetahs - after turning down three possible points for a draw - allowed the Highlanders to turn over possession and boot the ball into the stands for a closer than expected victory.

Both sides crossed the whitewash three times each, but ultimately a penalty from the boot of Highlanders fly-half Colin Slade proved to be the difference.

Slade missed his first three-pointer attempt of the match, but the Highlanders pivot was quick to erase his earlier blunder by throwing a skip pass out to Thomson on the wing who strolled over untouched.

Slade added the tricky conversion that gave his team a 7-0 point lead after ten minutes played.

The one-time All Black was more successful with his second penalty attempt a few minutes later, before the Cheetahs responded in the best possible way with a close-range try under the posts by prop WP Nel following several attacks on the Highlanders' line.

Sias Ebersohn converted and the Cheetahs were open for business (10-7).

However some more silky skills from Slade had centre Kendrick Lynn in unopposed under the sticks for another Highlanders' seven-pointer. The Cheetahs' never-say-die attitude was rewarded five minutes from half-time when Robert Ebersohn added his name to the scoresheet with a break-out try in the corner, converted by his brother.

At half-time (17-14), the Highlanders knew they had a game on their hands.

The Cheetahs were still sucking on oranges and took a while to get going in the second half, eventually paying the price when Thomson brushed off sloppy defenders to run in for his brace in the 44th minute. Slade was once again on target in the howling wind with his conversion, but that's where the scoring ended for the hosts.

The Highlanders never took their foot off the gas, but failed to turn their pressure into points. But the result never looked in doubt as the Cheetahs never came close to scoring.

That was until five minutes from full-time when Burger completed a break-out from Sarel Pretorius to set up a nail-biting finish to the match. But luckily for the Highlanders, the Cheetahs couldn't press on to end their tour on a massive high.

The scorers:

For Highlanders:
Tries: Thomson 2, Lynn
Cons: Slade 3
Pens: Slade

For Cheetahs:
Tries: Nel, R Ebersohn, Burger
Cons: S Ebersohn 3

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Mo Schwalger, 17 David Te Moana, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 James Paterson.

Cheetahs: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Philip Burger, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Corne Uys, 11 Wilmaure Louw, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Kabamba Floors, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp (c), 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst 17 Lourens Adriaanse, 18 Martin Muller, 19 Leon Karemaker, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Riaan Smit.

Referee: Nathan Pearce (Australia)

By Dave Morris

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