Sun, Mar 27, 2005 - Page 22 News List

S Africans have poor showing

RUGBY INTERNATIONALSThe Hurricanes secured a 12-9 win over the Stormers in New Zealand as the Highlanders beat the Cats 16-12 in Johannesburg

AP , JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

Paul Miller, left, of the Highlanders is tackled by Barend Pieterse of the Cats during their match in Johannesburg on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

Wellington and Otago remained in touch with the Super 12 leaders after narrow wins over South African sides on Friday.

Flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth kicked a last-minute drop goal to give the Wellington Hurricanes a 12-9 win over the Stormers at rainy Palmerston North, New Zealand, while the Otago Highlanders punished Cats errors for a 16-12 victory in Johannesburg.

Wellington moved to a provisional third in the standings on 17 points, two behind leader New South Wales, and one off defending champion ACT, who are both in action in Saturday's two matches.

Otago was tied for fourth with Canterbury, which was having the weekend off.

Today, NSW is home to the Bulls, and ACT meet the winless Sharks in Durban.

The Stormers have been the most penalized team in the Super 12 this season -- and were the losers again in a match which was a contest of penalties until Gopperth kicked the winning goal.

Chris Rossouw, who stepped in to the flyhalf's role in place of Gaffie du Toit, kicked three penalties from five attempts to keep the Stormers in front until the 62nd minute when Gopperth's third penalty tied the scores.

Then both sides attempted to avoid infringements, until the final minute when Gopperth decided the outcome.

The first-season flyhalf was heavily criticized for a lack of judgment in the Hurricanes' 21-12 loss last week to the Bulls. It was his attempt to run the ball out of his in-goal area late in the match which conceded the try that cost his team its first home game of the season.

But Gopperth was immediately forgiven on Friday, and even hailed the hero of the match, when his slanted kick from 15 meters flopped over the crossbar just ahead of the final whistle.

Scorers

* Wellington 12 (Jimmy Gopperth 3 penalties, dropped goal), Stormers 9 (Chris Rossouw 3 penalties)

* Otago Highlanders 16 (Craig Newby try; Ben Blair 3 penalties, conversion), Cats 12 (Andre Pretorius 4 penalties)


"I think we can be very proud of the way we defended tonight," Hurricanes captain Tana Umaga said. "They asked a lot of questions of us tonight and we came up with the right answers for ourselves."

At Ellis Park, the Cats dominated territory and the ball, but errors and poor decisions cost them another close match, and allowed Otago to complete three wins and a draw against the South African franchises.

Andre Pretorius kicked the Cats to a deserved 9-3 lead until three minutes from halftime, when scrumhalf Paul Delport's chip inside his 22 was gobbled up by the Highlanders, who sent flanker Craig Newby over between the posts. Ben Blair's conversion gave Otago a 10-9 lead against the run of play into the break.

"We made too many mistakes," Cats captain Wikus van Heerden said. "It's tough to do so much right and not come away with anything."

Pretorius kicked a fourth penalty for 12-10 but an injury to fullback Conrad Jantjes disoriented the Cats, and Blair booted two more penalties to retake the lead, and stretch it to 16-12 eight minutes from time.

Otago's defense, superb all night, along with the lineout play of James Ryan, withstood the Cats' last raids, even after the Highlanders were reduced to 14 men when Filipo Levi was yellow-carded.

"The Cats threw the kitchen sink at us," Highlanders captain Anton Oliver said. "I am just so proud of the impressive defenses of our guys."

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