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Contrasting wins for Force, Stormers in Super 14 clashes

PETER Grant scored a 70th-minute try to help South Africa's Stormers all but end the Otago Highlanders' semifinal chances with an 18-11 victory in their Super 14 clash in Dunedin, New Zealand, yesterday.

Grant went over unopposed after the Stormers had spent the best part of four minutes hammering away at the Highlanders' tryline to give his side the breathing space they held until the end at Carisbrook.

The Highlanders secured a bonus point for finishing within seven points with 23 points but remain in 10th place on the table, with other teams above them still to play over the weekend.

"It was an outstanding win for the team because our season has been a bit of a shocker of late," Stormers captain Schalk Burger said. "We were pretty keen to return to South Africa with a win under our belt."

The Stormers' Fijian winger Sireli Naqelevuki scored his side's other try when he capitalized on a poor kick from Highlanders No. 8 George Naoupu, regathered and outpaced the chasing players to score against the run of play.

Stormers' flyhalf Willem de Waal added a conversion and two penalties for the visitors, who return to South Africa after a five-week trip.

Highlanders flyhalf Matt Berquist slotted two first-half penalties to give his side a 6-0 lead at the break while winger Ben Smith finished off a break from fullback Israel Dagg in the second half.

Opening kickoff

In Perth, Australia, departing winger Drew Mitchell scored a try five phases after the opening kickoff yesterday and the Western Force piled on seven more tries to beat South Africa's Lions 55-14.

Mitchell, who scored in the second minute, confirmed earlier that he planned to sign a contract with the New South Wales Waratahs for next season. He is the second member of the Wallabies to defect from the Force this season following flyhalf Matt Giteau's decision to return to the ACT Brumbies next year.

It was the Lions' third loss in four matches on an Australasian road trip. The Force, who were awarded two penalty tries in the match, moved to within a point of the top four with 28 points, but with only two of six matches completed in the 11th round.

It was the Force's biggest victory margin in its four seasons of Super rugby.

Giteau scored the Force's second try and kicked the conversion to give the home side a 14-0 lead after 20 minutes.

The Force went up 21-0 four minutes later after they were awarded a penalty try when Lions captain Ernst Joubert was sent off for 10 minutes for pulling down Scott Staniforth near the goal line.


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