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Stormers continue unbeaten run
ESPNscrum Staff
April 6, 2012
The Stormers' Jean de Villiers takes the ball into contact, Highlanders v Stormers, Super Rugby, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand, April 7, 2012
Jean de Villiers takes the ball into contact against the Highlanders © Getty Images
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The Stormers continued their unbeaten start to the 2012 season with a commanding 21-6 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.

Tries from Gio Aplon and Joe Pietersen helped them on their way with Pietersen and Peter Grant also adding points from the boot. Pietersen got the scoreboard ticking over after just five minutes with a penalty. And they stretched their lead in the 12th minute through Springboks flyer Aplon who dotted the ball down. Chris Noakes pinned the Stormers back with a penalty for the home side but their joy proved to be short-lived. Pietersen's score in the 31st minute for the Stormers was one of the scores of the season as he started and finished a length-of-the-field move.

Noakes' 38 minute penalty proved to be the Highlanders last score of the match with the boot of Grant stretching the Stormers' advantage in the second 40. They had hooker Tiaan Liebenberg sin-binned in the 65th minute but the home side failed to get any points on the board with the loudest cheer of the second 40 saved for Jimmy Cowan who came onto the field for his 100th appearance for the home side in the 56th minute.

Morne Steyn kicked 22 points as the Bulls came from behind to beat the Crusaders 32-30 in Pretoria on Saturday. The Bulls trailed 13-6 minutes before half time after Dan Carter landed a penalty and a drop goal as well as converting No.8 Kieran Read's seventh-minute try. However Steyn slotted a penalty just before the break - adding to his previous two successful kicks - to send the Bulls in with their tails up and just for points behind.

Two minutes after half-time Steyn added his fourth penalty of the game before prop Dean Greyling barged over to put the hosts ahead, with the Springbok fly-half adding the conversion. Replacement Tom Taylor landed a penalty second after taking the field to reduce the Bulls' lead but Steyn responded by smashing over two further three-points.

Wynand Olivier dotted down for the Bulls with 11 minutes remaining and Steyn converted to all-but seal the victory. The Crusaders though fought back with wing Zac Guildford darting over for the visitors and Carter adding the conversion. Crusaders' hopes of a remarkable comeback heighted when replacement Tom Marshall touched down and Carter converted with two minutes left. But the Bulls held on to seal their fourth victory of the season and maintain their pursuit of the Stormers. While the Crusaders slumped to their third defeat, leaving them struggling near the bottom of the New Zealand conference.

The Reds found solace at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, beating the Brumbies 20-13 to draw a line under their miserable tour performances. Wallabies back-rower Scott Higginbotham was the star of the show in the first-half, twice popping up on the wing to score tries as the Reds established a 14-0 lead at the interval. Starting at No.8, the 25-year-old showed pace and power to finish on both occasions, the second after a miracle pass from Rod Davies.

Reds fly-half Sam Lane, on debut and under guidance from water boy Quade Cooper, slotted both conversions and a brace of second-half penalties to secure victory, although the latter stages were struggle for the champions. With Liam Gill's sin-binning after an hour came a Brumbies fightback, Joseph Tomane crashing through two tackles to score, but the visitors could not find a killer blow as Lane knocked over his last kick on the hooter.

The Hurricanes showed flashes of their incisive best at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth on Friday, beating the Sharks 42-18. The visitors were as good as out of it by half-time after the 'Canes struck for two long-range tries and one from the forwards' playbook, with Andre Taylor and Julian Savea showing superb pace to finish either side of an effort from flanker Jack Lam, one of two contentious TMO decisions to go the way of the hosts.

The Sharks bit back immediately after the break with a well-taken JP Pietersen try but Conrad Smith, the All Black centre, dived in out wide five minutes later to seal the bonus point, again with a little help from the video referee. Tim Bateman extended the Hurricanes' lead after regathering his own chip ahead to beat Riaan Viljoen, before hooker Craig Burden, in for Bismarck du Plessis, crashed over in the corner to further cut the deficit for the visitors. A stunning piece of skill from Smith then allowed Jeremy Thrush to crash over at the death, setting the seal on a good display.

The Chiefs won on the road to keep the heat on at the summit of the New Zealand conference, but they were made to work hard for a 20-12 victory over the Western Force.

One-cap All Black Lelia Masaga scored the only try of the first-half, darting over off a good angle, with two penalties from Force fullback David Harvey enough to ensure a tight 7-6 lead for the visitors at the break. Seven minutes into the second-half the lead was extended with Tim Nanai-Williams' well-taken score but a lack of discipline at the breakdown hurt the Chiefs, who conceded two more penalties to Harvey before closing out victory with some rugged defence and a couple of kicks from Aaron Cruden.

James O'Connor weighed in with 24 points as the Melbourne Rebels powered past a lacklustre Blues side 34-23 at AAMI Park on Thursday night.

Starting at inside-centre, the Wallabies international bagged a crucial try as well as five penalties and a brace of conversions to secure back-to-back home victories for the Rebels. Defeat leaves the Blues adrift at the basement of the New Zealand conference. Kurtley Beale got the hosts underway with an 80-metre interception after 10 minutes and the Rebels led 11-9 at the break after Gareth Anscombe's three penalties for the Blues.

Spurred on by a superb defensive effort - led by flanker Jarrod Saffy and locks Hugh Pyle and Luke Jones - the Rebels continued to press in the second-period, bouncing back from an early setback as Rudi Wulf rounded off good work by Rene Ranger for the Blues' first try. O'Connor waltzed over after a strong run by Mark Gerrard and good support from hooker Ged Robinson, with skipper Gareth Delve's close-range try at the death enough to secure victory after Blues flanker Chris Lowrey had set pulses racing with a 76th-minute score off a solid scrum.

Centre Robert Ebersohn touched down twice as the Cheetahs beat the Lions 26-5 in the battle of the bottom two in the South African conference on Saturday. The 23-year-old scored twice in the first half as the Cheetahs raced into a 23-0 lead by half time with fly-half Johan Goosen converting both tries as well as landing three penalties. The hosts' momentum was hindered by a raft of changes early in the second half but their defence remained tight as they gave up a solitary try to the Lions' Cobus Grobbelaar. Replacement Sias Ebersohn added a further penalty for the Cheetahs.

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