DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) — The Highlanders conceded the opening try before scoring nine of their own to overwhelm South Africa's Stormers 57-14 on Friday for their fifth straight win in Super Rugby.
For the second weekend in a row the Stormers, who are the top-placed team in the Africa 1 conference, conceded more than 50 points against a New Zealand rival in an illustration of the disparity between the conferences.
The Stormers were beaten 57-24 by the Christchurch-based Crusaders last weekend — a record score in that head-to-head — and endured further embarrassment Friday when they were beaten by the Dunedin-based Highlanders by a record score and margin. A try to replacement center Matt Faddes in the final minute from a chip kick by lock Joe Wheeler carried the Highlanders past their previous highest score against the Cape Town-based Stormers — 52 points — to ensure the record margin.
Wingers Patrick Osborne and Waisake Naholo scored two tries each as the Highlanders put on a demonstration of running rugby, the key elements of which were their support play, their ability to quickly recycle possession and to offload in contact.
The Stormers made a promising beginning with a try after seven minutes to Nizaam Carr from a brilliant behind-the-back pass from fellow backrower and captain Siya Kolisi. The visitors looked good when they carried the ball through the middle of the field but became distracted when the Highlanders scored a rapid series of tries.
"We wanted to put a good performance out before we headed off to South Africa," Highlanders captain Ben Smith said. "We knew that they like to play and they'd try to test us with their offloads.
"We knew our defense was going to have to be up to it tonight and off the back of some of our defensive efforts we managed to score some good tries."
Osborne crossed for his first try in the 13th minute, scoring on the end of a quick passing movement involving forwards Dan Lienert-Brown and Dillon Hunt. From then on it was one-way traffic.
Ben Smith had a hand in Naholo's first try and Osborne's second, Liam Squire scored from a lineout drive and center Dan Thompson made the lead 31-7 at halftime after figuring prominently in other scoring movements.
Naholo completed his double after halftime, and then Hunt scored from a tapped penalty taken quickly by scrumhalf Aaron Smith.
Prop Greg Pleasants-Tate also scored late for the Highlanders, and Dewaldt Duvenage pegged one back for the Stormers.
"It's not about the loss, it's about the way you lose," Kolisi said. "The manner we played today wasn't good enough.
"Our physicality is something we pride ourselves in and we didn't bring that today."
Despite the lopsided, bonus-point win, the Highlanders remained in fourth spot in the five-team New Zealand conference behind the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Chiefs.