The Stormers scored their first four-try bonus point of the season in their 29-28 win against the Highlanders at Newlands on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI.
Not since the big win against the Brumbies in Cape Town last season have the Stormers produced an attacking performance of such quality. Prop Frans Malherbe scored two tries in the first half, the second after Schalk Burger handed him an outrageously brilliant pass. Winger Damian de Allende added a third before the break, and Oliver Kebble’s score from close range in the 49th minute broke the Cape side's long standing bonus-point drought.
The 19,000 fans who had come through to Newlands would have been smiling at that point. That said, there were plenty of moments when the Stormers fans may have been more than a little concerned as while the attack-at-all-costs philosophy yielded four tries for the hosts, it also compromised their defensive structure and provided the Highlanders with scoring opportunities at the other end of the park.
The Highlanders scored right before half-time to narrow the deficit to 19-14. They tested the Stormers not only with a ball-in-hand approach, but through a series of grubbers and chip kicks behind the defensive line. Scrumhalf Aaron Smith and fullback Ben Smith were especially dangerous, and both scored important tries for the Highlanders on the day.
Kebble’s try looked to have taken the Stormers clear at 26-14, but the hosts were then guilty of a cynical infringement at the ruck. The Highlanders scored two tries while the offender, Scarra Ntubeni, was absent, and went to a 28-26 lead.
They looked to be on course for their second win in South Africa (they downed the Sharks in Durban last week) until reserve hooker Brayden Mitchell made a grave error. A tip-tackle on Stormers fullback Jaco Taute resulted in Mitchell receiving his marching orders and this allowed the Stormers to shoot for goal through Peter Grant and reclaim the lead.
Neither team finished the contest particularly strongly. The Stormers made some bizarre decisions in the final few minutes by opting to kick a penalty to touch instead of stretching their slender one-point lead to four. They were fortunate that the Highlanders didn’t turn them over and race the length of the field to score, either via a try or penalty.
The Stormers entertained in this fixture, and some might say that this should be encouraged, given their situation. They have no chance of making the play-offs and there is nothing left to play for but pride.
However, it should be a concern that their new approach lacks balance. They may have scored seven tries in the past two matches, but they’ve conceded nine. They did well to bag the bonus point against the Highlanders on this occasion, but they will be punished by a more structured side in the coming matches.
Stormers – Tries: Frans Malherbe (2), Damien de Allende, Oliver Kebble. Conversions: Kurt Coleman (3). Penalty: Peter Grant.
Highlanders – Tries: Aaron Smith, Trent Renata, Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa. Conversion: Lima Sopoaga (2), Renata (2).
Stormers – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Kobus van Wyk, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Trent Renata, 10 Liam Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Mani, 7 John Hardie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Matías Díaz, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Jason Emery, 23 Phil Burleigh.
LEATHERMAN SA PLAYER OF THE MATCH
It’s not everyday that a tighthead prop scores a brace, and Frans Malherbe deserves plaudits for his finishing in both instances. However, the player that stood out for the Stormers in this particular fixture was winger Damian de Allende. Apart from showcasing his speed with a brilliant score towards the end of the first half, De Allende dominated each and every collision over the course of the game, and thus provided his team with the necessary momentum.
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Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images