The Stormers snapped a four-match losing streak as they battled back to claim a 30-22 win over the Blues at Newlands on Friday night. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Having recently been humbled on a three-match tour to New Zealand, where they conceded 155 points and 24 tries, this was exactly the sort of result the Cape-based side would have been searching for.
As it was, the Stormers had to withstand plenty of pressure (they trailed by nine points just after half-time), but ultimately the hosts displayed the necessary composure and character to come away with a much-needed win.
A red card to Blues winger Matt Duffie with less than 15 minutes to play certainly aided the Stormers’ cause, but by then they had already changed the complexion of the clash through a lift in intensity that saw them begin to dominate the collisions and shift the pressure on to the visitors.
Trailing by two points at the break, the Stormers fell further behind soon after the restart when Blake Gibson went over to score the simplest of tries, while centre Shaun Treeby was then extremely fortunate to get away with a high tackle that really should have resulted in a yellow card.
Nevertheless, the Stormers rode their luck, and a penalty from SP Marais soon after cut the deficit to only six points. That strike also signalled a shift in momentum as the hosts quickly upped the tempo and appeared to feed off the vociferous support of the Newlands crowd.
Having weathered plenty of pressure, the Stormers then displayed impressive patience as they went through the phases in the red zone, and eventually struck when makeshift flyhalf Dillyn Leyds took a quick-tap penalty and darted over to score.
With the Stormers manning up and dominating the collisions, the home side continued to ride a wave of momentum, while matters swung firmly in their favour when Duffie received a second yellow card in the 66th minute, and was given his marching orders.
Just minutes later, Stormers replacement Sikhumbuzo Notshe powered his way over the line, with the simple conversion opening up an eight-point buffer. Bryn Gatland and Marais then traded a couple of penalties, with the Stormers able to hold out for a seventh victory of the season.
The Stormers had made an encouraging start to proceedings, and opened the scoring in the fourth minute through a Marais penalty, but the local side briefly lost their way from there.
In particular, the Stormers will want to reconsider some of their decision-making during the opening stanza. Instead of accumulating points, they twice opted to turn down kickable penalties early on, but received no reward for opting to kick to the corner.
Even when Duffie first spent 10 minutes in the sin bin, the Stormers failed to capitalise, while the frustrations of a scrappy opening quarter bubbled over in an unnecessary melee just after the quarter-hour mark.
In what will hardly come as much surprise, the altercation was instigated by a push from lock enforcer Eben Etzebeth, and after a lengthy review, he was eventually shown a yellow card for an open-handed slap.
During Etzebeth’s absence from the field, the Blues scored twice through George Moala and James Parsons to open up a handy 12-point lead. The Stormers then looked to have squandered another point-scoring opportunity when captain Siya Kolisi resolutely opted to kick another penalty to the corner just before the break.
However, on this occasion, the subsequent attack led to Kolisi himself barging over under the posts to help cut the deficit to two points at the break. Perhaps it was a case of risk and reward, but the hosts were certainly fortunate to trail by such a small margin at half-time.
Nevertheless, the Stormers dug deep from there, and ultimately walked away with a well-deserved end result.
Stormers – Tries: Siya Kolisi, Dillyn Leyds, Sikhumbuzo Notshe. Conversions: SP Marais (3). Penalties: Marais (3).
Blues – Tries: George Moala, James Parsons, Blake Gibson. Conversions: Piers Francis (2). Penalty: Bryn Gatland.
Stormers – 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Dillyn Leyds, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi (c), 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Damian de Allende.
Blues – 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Subs: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Michael Collins.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images