Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Highlanders hammer the Reds

BACK ON TRACK Australian woes continued in the first game of the weekend, but the return of captain Stirling Mortlock helped the Brumbies earn a win over the Stormers

AFP , DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALANDAFP, CANBERRAAP, PERTH, AUSTRALIA

The Otago Highlanders ran in four tries to two in a 33-17 win in Dunedin yesterday to ensure the Queensland Reds remained marooned at the bottom of the Super 14 rugby competition.

After a rough tour to South Africa early in the series, the Highlanders made the most of the home advantage at Carisbrook's "House of Pain," taking a bonus point and securing their third win from six matches to entrench themselves mid-table.

The New Zealand side never surrendered the lead through the match, although the Reds looked threatening when they drew within a point early in the second spell. But the rest of the half belonged to the Highlanders who enjoyed the lion's share of possession and territory.

"We're happy with that, we want to get the most points we can at home," skipper Josh Blackie said afterwards.

Blackie led the committed Highlanders pack in the first spell before coming off after taking a knock to the head, although he said afterwards his replacement was a precautionary measure only.

Lock James Ryan shone for the home side in the lineouts and in the loose with a series of barracking runs. The side was strongly marshalled by flyhalf Nick Evans, with the All Black making just his second start of the season after an unlucky run of injuries.

Evans quickly showed his class with a clever inside flick pass from more than 40m out in the fourth minute sparking a practised backline move finished with a touchdown by inside center Aaron Bancroft.

After the two sides traded penalties, a ruck turnover gave the home side a heavy advantage in numbers right on the Reds line. Winger Lucky Mulipola lived up to his name to be on hand to dive over for the five points.

Skipper Stirling Mortlock inspired the ACT Brumbies to a much-improved 26-13 Super 14 rugby win over the Western Stormers in Canberra yesterday.

Mortlock, returning to the game after a succession of head knocks, contributed 16 points as the Brumbies won their first home match of the season by three tries to one for the first win by an Australian team in three weeks.

But the Brumbies failed to claim a fourth try bonus point despite a glut of second-half possession.

The Stormers, disappointing after their shock 30-17 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington last week, claimed their only try after the final siren when fullback Gio Aplon sprinted away for a 80m intercept try off a floating Mark Gerrard pass.

Cameron Shepherd scored a try in the final minute then kicked the clinching conversion to give the Western Force their first Super 14 rugby win at home in eight attempts, beating the Wellington Hurricanes 18-17 yesterday.

Shepherd kicked the conversion from the sideline to give the Force its third win of the season. The Force's best result at home last year -- its first in the tournament -- was a 23-23 draw with the Crusaders, and the Perth team lost two games by one point at home this season.

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