Bernard Foley kicked a 79th-minute conversion to hand the Waratahs a 32-30 win against a 14-man Stormers side at Newlands on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Stormers will be bitterly disappointed with their own performance as well as the second-half incident that swung the game in the Waratahs’ favour. Indeed, the outcome may have been different had the Stormers made more of their attacking chances in the first stanza, and had Leolin Zas not been ejected for a reckless challenge in the 57th minute.
The Cape side was full of running in those first 40 minutes and enjoyed as much as 72% of the possession, according to SARugbymag.co.za's Opta-powered stats. And yet they went to the break with a slender 14-12 lead.
Cheslin Kolbe entertained the Newlands faithful with a couple of searing runs down the left-hand touchline. Jean-Luc du Plessis excelled as a distributor, while even the tight forwards were prominent with ball in hand. Both of the Stormers locks, Rynhardt Elstadt and Pieter-Steph du Toit, covered a lot of ground in the lead-up to the hosts’ second try.
The Waratahs didn’t have much ball in the first half, but when they did have an opportunity to strike, they capitalised. Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale combined to cut the hosts’ line in the ninth minute. The ease with which the Waratahs breached the Stormers’ tryline was an ominous sign.
The Stormers scored two tries thereafter. And yet 14 points was a poor return given the amount of possession they enjoyed and the number of scoring opportunities they had deep in Waratahs’ territory.
The visitors hit back on the stroke of half-time to reduce the deficit to two points. Foley and Beale were again involved, although on this occasion they managed to unleash the dangerous Israel Folau. Folau ran a great angle, broke the line, and raced 40m to score.
The nature of the contest changed after the break. Both teams looked to use their forwards to apply the pressure. After 56 minutes, the scoreboard read 20-18.
A minute later, Du Plessis launched a high-hanging kick for Zas to chase. The left winger bore down on Foley, who had positioned himself under the high ball.
Zas appeared to slip as he jumped for the ball, and only succeeded in taking Foley out in the air. Referee Mike Fraser consulted TMO Shaun Veldsman, and the decision was taken to show Zas a red card. A similar incident occurred in a match between the Highlanders and Sharks in Dunedin last weekend, where Jason Emery was ejected after a reckless and dangerous challenge on Willie le Roux.
The Newlands faithful booed the decision, and then cheered when Foley’s subsequent penalty attempt drifted wide. Moments later, Du Plessis kicked a penalty to stretch the hosts’ lead to five points.
The final 15 minutes were not short on drama. The Waratahs used their numerical advantage to great effect, and winger Rob Horne rounded the posts. The Stormers responded with a try through Du Toit in the 74th minute, and Du Plessis’s subsequent conversion restored the hosts’ five-point advantage as the game raced towards its climax.
The Waratahs threw everything they had into one final assault on the Stormers’ tryline. They looked to have botched that last attack when the ball spilled forward and the referee signalled a scrum for the hosts.
Incredibly, the Waratahs forced a turnover at that scrum, and managed to control possession thereafter. Michael Hooper drove over the tryline from close range. Foley completed the conversion from right out in front, and the Waratahs secured a big victory.
Stormers – Tries: Schalk Burger, Pieter-Steph du Toit (2). Conversions: Jean-Luc du Plessis (3). Penalties: Du Plessis (3).
Waratahs – Tries: Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Michael Hooper. Conversions: Bernard Foley (3). Penalties: Foley (2).
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Frans Malherbe (c), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Huw Jones.
Waratahs – 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 David Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Hugh Roach, 1 Paddy Ryan.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Matt Carraro.
Photo: Chris Rocco/BackpagePix