Cooper engineers Otago comeback

Otago Highlanders 33 Natal 32
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Otago Highlanders 33 Natal 32

The Otago Highlanders staged a tremendous finale to win their Super- 12 game against South Africa's Natal in a thrilling game at Dunedin, New Zealand, yesterday.

Down 24-13 at half-time and then 32-13 after Natal's James Small landed a drop goal and scored a try, Otago's full-back Matthew Cooper sparked a magnificent comeback for the Highlanders with a converted try.

Soon after John Leslie, the captain, charged down a clearing kick and chased successfully for another converted try. Cooper closed the gap to 32-30 with a timely penalty.

Otago were then rewarded with a penalty when a touch judge spotted a midfield back being hauled away without the ball and Cooper stroked the ball over to give his side victory.

Wilson had opened the scoring with a try for the Highlanders. Natal flanker Wickus van Heerden went in for a converted try. Wilson put the Otago side back in the lead 8-7 with a penalty goal, and winger Brian Lima raced off for a try.

The Natal centre Jeremy Thomson and Joubert crossed in quick succession, one of the tries converted by Henry Honiball and Natal shot ahead 19-13.

Joubert went through for his second try before half-time, Small landed his drop goal and then finished a fine back-line movement for his try.

Otago: Tries Wilson, Lima, Cooper, Lesley; Penalties Wilson, Cooper 2; Conversions Cooper 2. Natal: Tries Joubert 2, Thomson, Van Heerden, Small; Conversions Honiball 2; Drop goal Small.

Otago Highlanders: J Wilson; G Leaupepe, T Brown, B Lima, J Leslie (capt); S Bachop, S Forster; T Randell, P Henderson, L Falaniko, A Rich, J Cullen, M Driver, A Oliver, R Lawton.

Natal: A Joubert; C ven der Westhuisen, J Thomson, J Small D Muir; H Honiball K Putt; G Teichmann (capt), W Fyvie, W van Heerden, S Atherton, M Andrews, A Garvey, J Allan, A Le Roux.