The Stormers were poor but still too good for the Force in their 13-6 win in Perth on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Stormers will cherish the result. The victory in Perth hands them their second win on a four-game tour of Australasia. They will take some winning momentum into their next game against the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town.
While the Stormers will remember the result, they will want to forget about the performance. It was a rudderless and largely impotent display. Had the Stormers battled against any other side but the basement-dwelling Force, they would have lost.
The visitors scored 10 of their points in the first nine minutes of the contest. Their scrum was dominant, and a powerful set piece under the Force posts culminated in a penalty try. A conversion and a penalty by flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis extended the Stormers' lead to 10-3. From that point, the Cape side should have taken control.
But their tactics were flawed from the outset. The Stormers attempted to keep the ball in hand rather than kick for territory and pressure the opposition through their physical defence. Clearly the Stormers went into this game believing that they were capable of running the Force off their feet.
Some may argue that had the Stormers' finishing been more clinical, the winning margin may have been more emphatic. However, the Stormers played into the Force's hands when they decided to run from deep. Their substandard efforts at the breakdown were punished time and again, as the Force proceeded to secure a series of momentum-stalling turnovers.
The Force had their chances. Luke Burton lined up a third attempt at goal in the 48th minute. The kick would hit the upright, and then eventually drop into the hands of Stormers prop Frans Malherbe. Somehow the Stormers managed to get themselves out of that situation.
The Stormers' attack lacked precision, and the defence lacked fire. The Cape side won last week's encounter against the Waratahs through a rabid defensive display. On this occasion, the defence was desperate rather than dominant.
Replacement flyhalf Kurt Coleman kicked a penalty in the 75th minute to hand the Stormers some breathing room. And when Burton was yellow-carded for cynical play, it seemed as if the Stormers would cruise to victory.
But the Force enjoyed one final surge at the Stormers' tryline. The tired tourists were put to the test in those dying moments, and it was through the desperate efforts of Eben Etzebeth and several others that they were able to hang on for the win.
Force fullback Dane Haylett-Petty dived for the line, but was stopped short by Etzebeth. The referee Mike Fraser consulted with his TMO before ruling the play held up, and the game over.
It was a big play in the context of the Stormers' season. Had the Cape side lost, their tour would have been deemed a failure.
As it is, they will go into next week's battle against the Bulls with some confidence.
Force – Penalties: Luke Burton (2).
Stormers – Try: Penalty try. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalties: Catrakilis, Kurt Coleman.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images