The Vodacom Stormers put up a disappointing display in going down 30-15 to the Highlanders in their Vodacom Super 14 clash at Newlands on Saturday.
The halftime score was 17-10 for the Highlanders.
The Stormers now have made their task of qualifying for the semi-finals an almost impossible one. Next Saturday they face the imposing Hurricanes at Newlands before squaring off to the Cheetahs before they embark on the arduous overseas leg of their campaign.
On Saturday they – after a promising start to the game – made far too many mistakes to stay in contention for 80 minutes.
The game started off at a lively pace and as early as the fifth minute the Stormers had a chance to take the lead, but flyhalf Peter Grant failed with a 35m penalty attempt.
The Highlanders showed they mean business when a minute later wing Villimoni Delasau broke a tackle of Grant and ran far before offloading. A brilliant tackle from wing Chumani Booi – in his debut – and great work by Luke Watson in the ensuing ruck a metre from the try-line saved the day.
The Highlanders, however, were not to be denied when left wing Roy Kinikinilau finished off a sweeping movement for the first five-pointer in the 75h minute. Fullback Ben Blair converted (7-0).
In the 13th minute Stormers engineered a well-worked move which resulted in a chip kick by wing Rayno Benjamin for fullback Werner Greeff to chase. The bounce, however, was cruel to Greeff, who saw the ball agonizingly going across the touchline behind the corner flag. From there on in the Stormers exerted massive pressure on the Highlanders. First Greeff broke a few tackles on a powerful run before Benjamin came close to scoring and then Grant was impeded following through on a clever little kick.
He succeeded with the penalty kick to make the score 7-3 in the 15th minute.
In the 22nd scrumhalf Bolla Conradie broke to the blind side from a set scrum and Benjamin, with one man to beat, kicked ahead and the ball completely flummoxed Blair.
The Boland wing was on hand to capitalize. Grant converted beautifully to hand his side the lead at 10-7.
The Highlanders hit back through a Blair penalty in the 28th to draw the scores level. A debacle in the lineout led to a free kick for the Highlanders.
They tapped quickly, Blair injected pace and Kinikinilau scored his second try of the day. Blair added two more to make it 17-10 in the 36th minute.
Schalk Brits appeared on the field at hooker for the Stormers when play resumed after halftime. That, however, didn’t prevent the visitors from extending the lead in the 43rd minute via a Blair penalty (20-10).
In the 53rd minute Newlands erupted when Marius Joubert, out for six months due to a lower back injury, was introduced in place of Gus Theron.
Joubert was penalized in the 63rd minute for a foul on a Highlander who was not in possession and Blair added three to make the Stormers task more difficult at 23-10.
The Stormers introduced Neil Fullard and Justin Melck in the 64th minute. They replaced Eddie Andrews and Schalk Burger respectively.
Replacement wing Richard Kahui took the game out of the Stormers reach when he intercepted a pass from Brits in the 67th minute before sidestepping Greeff and beating lock Ross Skeate to the try-line. Blair scored to make the lead 20 points at 30-10.
Naas Olivier replaced Grant at flyhalf in the 70th minute for his Stormers debut, while Gerrie Brits went on in place of Skeate.
The Stormers saw precious little of the ball in the last 10 minutes, although they came close to scoring on three occasions before Olivier finally crossed the line after a Highlanders move came a cropper close to their try-line.
Tries:,/b. Roy Kinikinilau (2), Richard Kahui;
Conversions: Ben Blair (3);
Penalties: Ben Blair (3).
Tries: Rayno Benjamin, Naas Olivier;
Conversion: Peter Grant;
Penalty: Peter Grant (1).