The Stormers secured their sixth win of the season as they overcame a gallant Reds side 40-22 at Newlands on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
This was far from the Stormers’ most convincing performance of the season, and it’s clear that they are still some way from the complete product, but again they got the job done when it mattered most.
With the pressure building, they kept the Reds scoreless for the final half an hour, with Super Rugby debutant Brandon Thomson knocking over three penalties, while Vincent Koch scored with the final play of the game to carry the Stormers to a relatively comfortable victory in the end.
It’s a result that ensures the Stormers remain top of the South African conference, and enables them to keep at least some daylight between them and the Lions, a side they lost to last weekend.
On a beautiful afternoon in Cape Town, the Stormers made a bright and breezy start to proceedings with Kobus van Wyk and Leolin Zas going over for well-worked tries in the opening quarter.
At 14-3 up, the Stormers were looking comfortable, but they were then guilty of becoming a little loose as the determined Reds began to work their way back into the clash, with dangerous centre Samu Kerevi making his physical presence felt.
The Stormers’ handling also let them down in the opening half, a couple of times in the red zone on attack, while a Cheslin Kolbe knock-on enabled the Reds to set a scrum at the start of a movement that ended with flanker Liam Gill going over for a try under the posts.
In a pedestrian finish to the first half, neither side was able to make much headway with ball in hand, with Stormers flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis adding just three more points via the boot to hand the Stormers a 17-10 lead at the break.
It was a comfortable lead for the hosts, but neither side would have been particularly pleased by their first-half performances, which lacked accuracy and incision, while the Stormers' defence was regularly compromised by some side-to-side Reds attack and good use of the inside pass.
The Newlands crowd was then shocked into silence as first Karmichael Hunt and then Eto Nabuli scored the simplest of tries within the first 10 minutes of the restart to hand the Reds a 22-17 lead. Suddenly, the warning signs were flashing.
The Stormers clearly needed someone to spark them to life, and rather fittingly, it was scrumhalf Nic Groom – celebrating his 50th Super Rugby cap – who showed great strength to break through a couple of tackles and squirm over to score against the uprights.
Thomson displayed impressive composure to then slot an angled 45m penalty to edge the Stormers further ahead in the 65th minute, while he added two easier attempts soon after as the Cape-based side opened up an important 11-point buffer.
Koch then scored one final try to make the scoreline appear somewhat flattering as the Stormers celebrated a return to winning ways.
Stormers – Tries: Kobus van Wyk, Leolin Zas, Nic Groom, Vincent Koch. Conversions: Jean-Luc du Plessis (3), Brandon Thomson. Penalties: Du Plessis, Thomson (3).
Reds – Tries: Liam Gill, Karmichael Hunt, Eto Nabuli. Conversions: Jake McIntyre (2). Penalty: McIntyre.
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Damian de Allende (c), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Jean-Pierre Smith, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Huw Jones.
Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ben Matwijow, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Sef Fa'agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Ayumu Goromaru.
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images