CAPE TOWN – If the Stormers needed something to help them get over that horror tour to New Zealand, then their fine 30-22 victory over the Blues at Newlands was the perfect thing to do just that.
Early in the game, the Stormers’ inability to finish, which was so cruelly displayed on tour, seemed to have followed them into their first home fixture after their three-match trip to New Zealand.
In the first quarter, fullback SP Marais’ boot got the hosts into opposition 22 on two occasions, and both times the hosts produced powerful driving mauls only to cough up possession. But they didn’t let all the troubles from that tour haunt them, as they later made good use of their opportunities.
After those two scoring opportunities, the Blues did most of the threatening with ball in hand and put the Stormers under some good pressure, but towards the end of the game, the hosts took full control of the game to put their Kiwi opposition soundly to bed.
The Stormers showed more grit at the breakdowns, their set-piece, especially their lineout, looked better, and the numerous slipped tackles that they were guilty of a couple of weeks ago was not a problem this time around.
And there were also fine individual performances.
Seabelo Senatla announced his return with a beautifully angled run that saw him take the ball up from own 22, before cutting inside and adding a few more stunning metres before he was taken down near the half way line, while he didn’t slack when it came to making tackles either.
No 8 Nizaam Carr had one of his better games in a while with hard tackles, solid work at the breakdowns and a few good carries, while captain Siya Kolisi made sure that he was one of the Stormers’ top performers again with good carries, hard work on the ground and some nice running.
And what would the encounter have been without a fist greeting or two? You don’t have to think too hard about who could have been involved there. Unfortunately for the Stormers, a scrum to the Blues after Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth was yellow carded for shoving opposition No 8 Akira Ioane in the face resulted in a quick try by form outside centre George Moala. Flyhalf Piers Francis added the conversion (3-7).
Tana Umaga’s men got another try from almost the exact same position from a scrum on Stormers’ five, and another series of quick passes on the openside set skipper James Parsons up for their second try (3-12).
A try by Kolisi just before half time took the score to 10-12 at the break after a solid scrum in the Blues 22. After a fine run by Treeby and some good work by the Stormers forwards at a ruck just short of the try line, the skipper powered over for their first try of the match.
Early in the second 40 a great offload by Sonny Bill Williams after a ruck a few metres from the whitewash put No 7 Blake Gibson away for the Blues’ third try. Francis, who left the field shortly afterwards after a high tackle by Treeby (yet another one that Jaco van Heerden didn’t consider worthy of a yellow card), added the extras to stretch the Blues’ lead (10-19).
A penalty kick by Marais from just outside opposition 22, where kicking for the corner might have been the better option, added three more points for the Stormers in the third quarter (13-19).
A turnover by Stormers Carr just outside own 22 handed the Robbie Fleck’s team possession, and after beautiful interplay flyhalf Dillyn Leyds went over for the try. Marais added the conversion to give the Stormers the lead for the first time in the match (20-19).
In the last quarter, replacement loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe got the Stormers’ third try after another display of their powerful driving maul, before the ball went through quite a few pairs of hands got them to within a metre or two of the try line. The Stormers did good work on the ground again to retain possession, and Notshe powered through to finish off great work by the hosts. Marais kept his kicking record clean with another perfectly-aimed conversion (27-19), and the fullback added a third penalty kick with a few minutes to go to take the score to 30-22.
Stormers: Tries: Siya Kolisi, Dillyn Leyds, Sikhumbuzo Notshe Conversions: SP Marais (3) Penalties: Marais (3) Yellow cards: Eben Etzebeth
Blues: Tries: George Moala, James Parsons, Blake Gibson Conversions: Piers Francis (2) Penalties: Bryn Gatland Yellow cards: Matt Duffie (2)