The Stormers lost 22-17 to the Reds to finish a terrible tour to Australasia without a win. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Cape side has been devastated by injuries in recent weeks, but this cannot be used as the sole excuse for a rotten run of results. They have blown a number of scoring opportunities on their four-match tour and their basic handling has been abjectly poor.
Put simply, the Stormers have nobody to blame other than themselves for a zero-from-four record in Australasia.
Captain Jean de Villiers lamented the ‘same old mistakes’ after last week’s defeat to the Brumbies, and indeed it was the same shortcomings that afflicted the Cape side in this battle against the Reds. The Stormers coughed up possession in the tackle, and their lineout was consistently poor. They failed to implement their territorial template and thus struggled to put the Reds under pressure.
Damian de Allende scored in the 10th minute after the Stormers had done well to effect a turnover and then shift the ball wide. But apart from that slick exhibition of finishing, the Stormers routinely dropped passes in the Reds’ 22. This allowed the hosts, who weren’t on top of their game, off the hook.
The Reds struggled when shifting the ball into the wider channels, where the Stormers' defence was strong. They enjoyed more success by targeting the area around the ruck, with the forwards and scrumhalf Will Genia making plenty of metres.
While the Stormers had the Reds covered in the wider channels, this good defensive work was often undone by the visitors' misfiring lineout. One instance summed up the night for this hosts, as after shepherding the Reds into touch, Stormers hooker Deon Fourie succumbed to the pressure and turned over possession.
Fourie was guilty of a number of wayward lineout feeds in this contest, and one such throw handed the Reds a five-metre scrum in the 23rd minute. The Reds took advantage of that platform, with lock Rob Simmons eventually forcing his way over from a subsequent phase. It was a classic example of the Stormers relinquishing possession at the crucial moment.
The Reds battled for continuity, but still managed to edge to a 16-10 lead as the game headed into the final quarter. Quade Cooper didn’t have the best game with the boot, but struck a decisive blow when he nailed a drop goal in 67th minute to take the hosts nine points clear.
A further penalty goal by Cooper put the game out of the Stormers' reach, and ensured that the Wallabies flyhalf finished with a personal tally of 17 points.
The Stormers scored a try in the 75th minute, ironically from a lineout drive. It was enough to earn them a losing bonus point, and only their second log point of the tour, but not enough to win them the game.
The Stormers have been hit hard by injuries, and sustained another serious setback on Saturday when Gio Aplon hurt his arm, but they will know that the quality of their performances has been poor.
It goes without saying that a team with such a record, and injury list, will not contend for the title in 2014. Indeed, the Stormers will need a miracle to qualify for the play-offs from here.
Reds – Try: Rob Simmons. Conversion: Quade Cooper. Penalties: Cooper (4). Drop goal: Cooper
Stormers – Tries: Damian de Allende, Sikhumbuzo Notshe. Conversions: Peter Grant, Demetri Catrakilis. Penalty: Grant.
Reds – 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Ed Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper
Subs: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Ben Lucas
Stormers – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Tazz Fuzani, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Jaco Taute.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images