Jean-Luc du Plessis kicked a last-minute penalty to help the Stormers draw 19-19 with the Crusaders at Newlands on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
You have to admire the tenacity of both teams. The Crusaders fought back from 10-0 down to lead until the last minute of the contest. The Stormers traded punches with the best team in the competition in the second period to force an unlikely draw.
Should the Stormers have kicked that last penalty to touch and pushed for a try and ultimately the win? It would have done their log position a lot more good.
In the end, however, one might say that they proved a point in drawing with the Crusaders – just as the Sharks did several weeks ago – and that two log points are better than none.
While the Crusaders were physically outplayed during the early stages of the contest – and trailed 10-0 after 17 minutes – they showed no signs of stress or panic.
Indeed, the reigning champions showed the Stormers no respect when they eventually won a couple of penalties within range of the posts. The faith in the forwards was rewarded, as the Crusaders scored two tries off the back of a dominant maul.
The atmosphere at Newlands was nothing short of spectacular. The crowd rose as one when Siya Kolisi cut the line and then danced round David Havili to score the game’s first points.
The Stormers booed Richie Mo’unga when the Crusaders flyhalf lined up his first shot at goal. When the visitors started to hit their stride in the second stanza, however, the Cape-based Crusaders supporters found their voice and managed to force Josh Stander to miss a penalty attempt.
The Stormers kept the best attacking side in the tournament scoreless for 27 minutes. The Crusaders absorbed a lot of early pressure, though, and when the time to throw a punch of their own finally arrived, they hit the mark ruthlessly.
The Crusaders scored their second try in the 36th minute to move into a 12-10 lead. They may have added a third – after the Stormers conceded a series of penalties – if not for some good defence by the home side on their own line.
At half-time, the Stormers were still in with a shout. Then the Crusaders struck after the break to take control of the contest.
The Stormers defence shot off the line to leave a hole for Mo’unga to exploit. Jordan Taufua flew on to the short ball, and then threw a long pass to Braydon Ennor in the tramlines.
The reserve winger raced away to score, and just like that the Crusaders had scored 19 unanswered points in 19 minutes.
The Stormers responded via two penalty goals. The buildup to the latter by Jean-Luc du Plessis produced an interesting contest in the stands.
The Cape Crusaders booed the reserve flyhalf as he lined up the kick. The Stormers fans eventually found their voice as the ball left the tee and bisected the uprights.
The Stormers showed some spirit and determination during the closing stages.The Crusaders usually shift through the gears in the fourth quarter of a contest and pile on the points.
On this occasion, however, the Stormers found a second wind to stifle the Crusaders attack and stay in the hunt.
The Crusaders were not at their best during this period. While they managed to break the line on several occasions, those final passes didn’t go to hand.
A try by Sevu Reece in the dying stages was disallowed by the TMO due to a forward pass. The Stormers had a chance to win the game at the death when Damian Willemse charged on to a rolling kick. The fullback knocked the ball on over the tryline.
The crowd groaned in anguish. Then referee Nic Berry, however, brought the Stormers back for a penalty in front of the posts.
The decision was taken to shoot for goal, and then Du Plessis made no mistake.
Stormers – Try: Siya Kolisi. Conversion: Josh Stander. Penalties: Josh Stander (2), Jean-Luc du Plessis (2).
Crusaders – Tries: Matt Todd, David Havili, Braydon Ennor. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2).
Stormers – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Cobus Wiese, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Neethling Fouché 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan Kriel.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock (c) , 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Whetu Douglas, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Photo: EPA/Nic Bothma