9 Apr 2011

Highlanders win but plenty of room to improve

2:10 pm on 9 April 2011

The Highlanders climbed to second in the New Zealand conference and fourth overall in the Super Rugby standings after their 24-21 win over the Cheetahs at Carisbrook last night but captain Jamie MacIntosh says his side must be more clinical if they're to challenge for their maiden title.

The Highlanders dominated possession and breached the Cheetahs defence on numerous occasions but consistently butchered chances while hot on attack and almost paid the price against the strong finishing South Africans.

The win was the Highlanders' fifth from seven games this season, but MacIntosh was ruing his side's inability to claim the four try bonus point.

Meanwhile Adam Thomson and Colin Slade boosted their All Blacks chances during the tight encounter in Dunedin.

Flanker Thomson scored two tries and was prominent again in the loose while first five Slade sparked his attacking backline with incisive running and contributed nine points with his boot.

The Cheetahs, who spent most of the match chasing the Highlanders, rued two missed penalties by Sias Ebersohn in the second half as they took what opportunities they did have to score three converted tries to WP Nel, Robert Ebersohn and winger Phillip Burger.

The Highlanders now have 25 points, level with the Blues, who have the bye this weekend.

Tonight the Crusaders host the defending champion Bulls in Timaru before the Hurricanes take on the Brumbies in Canberra.