Aaron Cruden scored 18 points to guide the Chiefs to a 28-19 win over the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
At one stage, the Chiefs were on course for a hammering. They trailed the Stormers 13-3 after 23 minutes. Their scrum was crumbling, while power runners like Sonny Bill Williams were failing to make so much as a dent in the Stormers defence.
But despite the lack of a platform, the Chiefs stayed in the game. Through the accurate goal-kicking of Cruden, they went to the break trailing only 16-13. In the final quarter, they shifted gear and broke clear of their static opponents.
The Cape side certainly played a part in their own demise. They dropped too much ball on attack, and were often isolated at the breakdown. Halfbacks Louis Schreuder and Kurt Coleman, as well as replacement scrumhalf Nic Groom in the latter stages, were guilty of kicking the ball right down the throats of the Chiefs' back three.
Damian de Allende created the Stormers’ only try with a great display of power and panache. After smashing through one defender, De Allende looked for an offload to an inside runner. Kobus van Wyk read the play perfectly, and went through for the try.
The Stormers should have built on that performance. They should have continued to play down in Chiefs territory, and pressure the opposition defence until it cracked. Instead, they proceeded to haemorrhage possession. They tried to play a looser style of rugby, and in doing so, played into the Chiefs’ hands.
While Williams was kept in check for the most part, the other Chiefs backline players ran amok. Cruden and fullback Damian McKenzie contributed some outstanding attacking touches, as did wingers James Lowe and Bryce Heem. The latter steamrolled Cheslin Kolbe in the lead up to the visitors’ first try, and then found Cruden with a beautiful inside ball.
Shortly after half-time, McKenzie freed up Cruden on the left flank, who in turn found Lowe for the finish. Of course, the Chiefs would not have enjoyed such an attacking opportunity had the Stormers cleared their lines in the preceding play.
The Chiefs tried to speed up the game in the final 30 minutes. They ran hard at the Stormers for a sustained period, and while they enjoyed no success initially, they managed to tire the defence.
The Stormers scrum, so dominant in the first stanza, started to concede penalties at a crucial stage of the second. Cruden nailed an important penalty goal on the hour to take the Chiefs nine points clear of the Stormers, and suddenly the hosts were chasing the game.
Another poor kick by Groom handed the Chiefs a chance to score. McKenzie shifted the ball quickly down the line. The Stormers cover got across, but could not get back to deny the Chiefs from the subsequent phase. Sam Cane ran down the blindside, and crashed over the line for the game-deciding score.
The result is an important one for the Chiefs following their loss against the Highlanders last week.
The Stormers will be disappointed, not just with the result, but with the way they played. Their tactical kicking was poor, and their attack erratic.
This led to them spending too much time on defence, and too much time in their own half. Ultimately, that defence would be undone, and they would be the team to finish on the wrong side of a 28-19 scoreline.
Stormers – Try: Kobus van Wyk. Conversion: Kurt Coleman. Penalties: Coleman (3), Demetri Catrakilis.
Chiefs – Tries: Aaron Cruden, James Lowe, Sam Cane. Conversions: Cruden (2). Penalties: Cruden (3).
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Ruan Botha, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Huw Jones.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Jamie Mackintosh, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Maama Vaipulu, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Tom Marshall.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images