Highlanders, Rebels remain unbeaten in Super Rugby
DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) — The Dunedin-based Highlanders continued an unbeaten start to Super Rugby by beating the Cape Town-based Stormers 33-15 on Friday.
Also, the Melbourne Rebels stayed unbeaten, defeating the ACT Brumbies 33-10 for their third bonus-point win in a row.
The Highlanders opened their season two weeks ago with a win over the Hamilton-based Chiefs, but risked losing early momentum when they had a bye last weekend.
Despite a glut of handling errors, the Highlanders were able to hold out the spirited Stormers after gaining a slender 19-15 halftime lead, winning by five tries to two.
Scrumhalf Aaron Smith scored a try in each half for the Highlanders and was a constant source of energy and enthusiasm. Other tries went to All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo and back-rowers Liam Squire and Luke Whitelock.
The Stormers were threatening for most of the match and twice held the lead in the first half with tries to Chris van Zyl and Damian Willemse. But their finishing often let them down and the Highlanders were able to prey on their errors.
"We knew they were going to be direct," Highlanders captain Ben Smith said. "We had to match that and we did that."
The Stormers sustained the third loss of their Australasian tour and their 10th straight defeat in New Zealand.
"It's kind of the same story every game, but at least today we started well," Stormers captain Siya Kolisi said. "We couldn't hold onto the ball and whenever we got to the 22, we didn't come away with points while they did. We can't keep on making the same mistakes every week."
At Melbourne, the Rebels broke open a close game when the Brumbies lost reserve prop Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin to a yellow card in the 62nd minute after repeated infringements.
Three tries in six minutes followed — by Reece Hodge, his second of the night, Jack Maddocks and reserve halfback Michael Ruru — to clinch the match for the home side.