The Stormers scored seven tries to beat the Rebels 57-31 in Melbourne on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The bonus-point victory takes the Cape franchise nine log points clear of the Bulls (who play the Jaguares later on Saturday) at the top of the Africa 1 conference, and with matches against the Force in Perth and the Kings at Newlands still to come, a home quarter-final looks all but assured.
The Stormers trailed 14-6 after 16 minutes of this match, but a commanding performance from flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis and set-piece dominance saw them leading 23-17 at the break. The visitors' scrum won four tightheads in the first half and they were able to steal four of the Rebels' lineouts. Both of the hosts' locks had to leave the field with concussion before half-time and were replaced by flankers.
The Rebels scored two second-half tries to get themselves right back into the game, but their set pieces continued to let them down, with the Stormers scoring a try from another stolen lineout and one from a powerful scrum that saw eight forwards packing down against seven forwards and a back. The hosts would concede another try while down to 14 men, with the visitors then grabbing two more against 15 to get the full five log points.
The Stormers made an impressive start to the match, taking the ball through nine phases and getting to within 2m of the Rebels' tryline, before being awarded a penalty that Jean-Luc du Plessis sent through the posts.
Jack Debreczeni missed his first penalty attempt at goal, but the Rebels did get on the board in the ninth minute after winning a lineout just outside the Stormers' 22. A good set play by the backs put Debreczeni into a gap and while the flyhalf was ankle-tapped by Jean-Luc du Plessis, he was still able to get the try-scoring pass away to Sefa Naivalu.
Debreczeni kicked the conversion, before Du Plessis's second penalty reduced the deficit to one.
The Rebels gained another confidence boost when scrumhalf Ben Meehan ripped the ball out the back of a maul and darted away to score in the left-hand corner.
But once again the visitors hit back immediately when, following an eight-phase attack, Jean-Luc du Plessis chip kicked into the Rebels 22 for his cousin Daniel. The ball bounced loose and Jean-Luc collected it to score his side's first try. The flyhalf kicked the conversion and added a penalty to make it 16-14 after half an hour.
The Stormers then struck again when Vincent Koch barged over from close range, before Debreczeni's second penalty reduced the gap to six.
Naivalu was denied his second try early in the second half when the TMO ruled he had gone into touch before grounding the ball in the left-hand corner. But the Rebels would score a few minutes later, in the right-hand corner, when Jonah Placid rounded off a 15-phase attack.
Debreczeni's conversion gave the hosts a 24-23 lead, but they conceded a penalty soon after the restart which Du Plessis slotted to put his side back in front.
Eben Etzebeth then scored the Stormers' third try, after stealing another Rebels lineout, but that was cancelled out when Tom English broke away from a ruck and found Debreczeni, who dotted down under the posts.
The hosts were reduced to 14 men in the 61st minute when replacement lock Scott Fuglistaller (normally a flanker) was yellow-carded for a professional foul at a ruck close to his tryline. The Stormers opted to scrum from the resultant penalty, and while Jean-Luc du Plessis couldn't take Kobus van Wyk's pass, with an open tryline in front of him, the referee was playing advantage and the visitors scrummed again. This time they made it count, with Schalk Burger's perfectly timed pass putting Nic Groom over.
The Stormers scored again against 14 men, with Damian de Allende diving over next to the posts to make it 43-31, and put the result beyond doubt with five minutes to go when Leolin Zas intercepted a poor pass and raced away to grab his side's sixth try.
The visitors then secured the bonus point when they won a lineout after the hooter and Scarra Ntubeni went over from the driving maul.
Rebels – Tries: Sefa Naivalu, Ben Meehan, Jonah Placid, Jack Debreczeni. Conversions: Debreczeni (4). Penalty: Debreczeni.
Stormers – Try: Jean-Luc du Plessis, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Nick Groom, Damian de Allende, Leolin Zas, Scarra Ntubeni. Conversions: Jean-Luc du Plessis (5). Penalties: Du Plessis (4).
Rebels – 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Jonah Placid, 13 Sefa Naivalu, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Colby Fainga’a, 7 Sean McMahon (c), 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Toby Smith, 2 James Hanson, 1 Cruze Ah Nau.
Subs: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Sione Tuipolotu, 23 Paul Asquith.
Stormers – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Daniel du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Louis Schreuder, 23 Scott van Breda.
Photo: Getty Images