Cheetahs run rampant in Invercargill

Getty Images     10 Mar 2013     Getty Images

Goosen kicked five penalty goals and converted all three tries as the Cheetahs completed a major upset over the much-fancied Highlanders.

The Cheetahs, beaten 45-3 by the Chiefs last week, were unrecognisable from the team of last week as they played outstanding rugby and had the game nailed by halftime when they led 30-7.

Only wing Kade Poki and fullback Ben Smith made much of an impression in a Highlanders' side which is still seeking its first win.

The Cheetahs were seeking their first win after losses to the Sharks and Chiefs while the Highlanders had been beaten by the Chiefs in their only previous outing.

Andrew Hore was captaining the Highlanders for the first time while Brad Thorn and No 8 Jake Paringatai were making their debuts.

The Highlanders had won their previous seven matches against the Cheetahs but most by narrow margins.

Midfielder Ma'a Nonu was a late withdrawal from the Highlanders because of a knee injury and was replaced by Shaun Treeby with Buxton Popoali'i coming on to the bench.

The Cheetahs started strongly and first five-eighth Johan Goosen opened the scoring with a regulation penalty after 10 minutes.

Lima Sopoaga had a chance to level the scores but struck the left upright from 35m. The Highlanders tried to drive over from a lineout penalty but were repelled by staunch Cheetahs' defence.

The Cheetahs increased their lead to 10-0 after 21 minutes when flanker Lappies Labuschagne broke the tackle of Joe Wheeler and in-passed to halfback Sarel Pretorious who scored under the posts.

Goosen added the simple conversion and a penalty three minutes later to make it 13-0.

The Highlanders struck back when Sopoaga slipped through a clever grubber kick and right wing Kade Poki scored in the corner. Sopoaga converted and it as 13-7 after 26 minutes.

But there was more misery for the Highlanders 10 minutes later when centre Rob Ebersohn charged down Sopoaga's kick and raced away to score. Goosen converted and the Cheetahs led 20-7. Goosen added his third penalty two minutes later to make it 23-7.

Sopoaga was having a miserable game and Pretorious intercepted his pass inside the 22 and sprinted away to score his second try. Goosen converted and the Cheetahs led 30-7 five minutes before the break.

Colin Slade replaced the hapless Sopoaga three minutes before the break but the Cheetahs held a more than handy 23-point lead at halftime.

It was a remarkable scoreline given the Highlanders had had 68 percent possession, 62 percent territory, dominated the breakdowns 68-22 and put together 10 five-plus phases to one.

The Highlanders had to strike quickly in the second spell and they did. They launched a concerted attack which ended with Poki scoring his second try in the right corner to make it 30-12.

Springbok flanker Heinrich Brussow made his long-awaited return from injury when he replaced Frans Viljoen 10 minutes into the second half.

Highlanders captain Andrew Hore was subbed off 15 minutes into the half and replaced by Brayden Mitchell while Tim Boys came on for Wheeler.

Outstanding halfback Pretorious was surprisingly subbed by Piet van Zyl midway through the half with the Cheetahs needing his inspiration to complete a surprise win.

But the Cheetahs increased their lead to 33-12 with 15 minutes remaining when Goosen kicked his fourth penalty goal.

The Highlanders gave themselves a glimpse of hope when Poki completed his hat-trick of tries eight minutes from the end when he scored by the posts and Slade converted to make it 33-19.

But Goosen kicked his fifth penalty five minutes from the end and the Cheetahs led 36-19.

Scorers were:

Highlanders 19 (Kade Poki 3 tries; Lima Sopoaga con; Colin Slade con) Cheetahs 36 (Sarel Pretorious 2, Rob Ebersohn tries; Johan Goosen 3 con, 5 pen). HT: 7-30