Second-half comeback saves Stormers

Super Rugby

SINGAPORE – The Stormers gained revenge on the Sunwolves as they showed great character to launch a second-half comeback to pull off a 44-31 victory in Singapore on Saturday.

In the corresponding fixture last season, the Japanese side held on for a 17-17 draw in what was one of the worst Stormers displays in their history.

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Stormers fullback Dillyn Leyds was an ever-present threat on attack against the Sunwolves. Photo: Wallace Woon, EPAWing Seabelo Senatla in full flight against the Sunwolves in Singapore. Photo: Wallace Woon, EPAImpressive Sunwolves centre Derek Carpenter goes over for the first of two tries against the Stormers. Photo: Wallace Woon, EPAStormers captain Siya Kolisi bursts through the Sunwolves defence on Saturday. Photo: Wallace Woon, EPA

And despite some enterprising play from the Cape outfit on Saturday, they were in real danger of dropping points once more against the unfancied Sunwolves, who ran into a 24-10 lead after just 25 minutes.

Missing Springbok heavyweights such as Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Frans Malherbe upfront, the Stormers were physically harassed by the Sunwolves, who forced their opponents into mistakes with their relentless approach.

The South Africans were knocked back in the tackle, and the rush defence of the Sunwolves unsettled the Stormers’ attacking approach throughout.

After an early penalty from Du Preez, it was the Sunwolves who opened the try-scoring column when a comedy of errors from the Stormers started with scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage’s box-kick being charged down, and the ball was swung wide for impressive centre Derek Carpenter to round off in the sixth minute.

To add insult to injury, Stormers flank Rynhardt Elstadt was yellow-carded for a no-arms tackle on former Cheetahs loose forward Willie Britz in the build-up to Carpenter’s try, and that meant that the already stretched defence was tested even further.

The Stormers, though, didn’t sit back and actually should’ve had their first touchdown after captain Siya Kolisi surged up the middle, and fullback Dillyn Leyds put in a delightful grubber for Bjorn Basson to score. Basson, though, lost control of the ball as he tried to dot it down, and the TMO ruled that it was a knock-on.

But in the 19th minute, Robbie Fleck’s team levelled the scores at 10-10 with what is sure to be a contender for Super Rugby try of the season. In a move that was started by wing Seabelo Senatla – who produced some incredible runs – the World Sevens Player of the Year drew two Sunwolves players and released Leyds into space.

The No 15 showcased his dancing feet to make his way into the opposition half, and following a number of sensational offloads in the tackle, outside centre EW Viljoen reached forward to score.

Seabelo Senatla in full flight against the Sunwolves in Singapore. Photo: Wallace Woon, EPA

The Sunwolves, though, hit back with two tries in three minutes, first though wing Shota Emi and then lock Liaki Moli as the Cape side’s defence fell apart.

The Stormers battled to rekindle their attacking touch out wide, and opted to keep things tight with the forwards. That decision paid dividends before half-time as Elstadt made up for his yellow card to barrel over, and Du Preez added a conversion and penalty to bring the Capetonians to within four points of the lead at 24-20 at half-time.

Soon after the break, left wing Kenki Fukuoka broke the line out wide, and it was that man Carpenter who finished well to increase the lead to 11 points for the hosts.

The Stormers eventually had the measure of the Sunwolves pack, though, and keeping things tight worked out again as first prop Wilco Louw scored, and scrumhalf Duvenage darted over to put the Stormers back into the lead at 34-31 with 20 minutes to go.

The Sunwolves appeared to run out steam in the last quarter as the slow poison of the Stormers pack took effect, and even though replacement prop Oli Kebble was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Fukuoka with 10 minutes to go, home side flyhalf Jumpei Ogura missed a crucial penalty that would’ve made the score 34-34.

Fleck and his coaching staff would’ve still been on tenterhooks, but they didn’t have to worry as late tries by Bongi Mbonambi and Basson sealed a valuable away victory.


Sunwolves 31: Tries: Derek Carpenter (2), Shota Emi, Liaki Moli. Conversions: Jumpei Ogura (4). Penalty: Ogura (1).

Stormers 44: Tries: EW Viljoen, Rynhardt Elstadt, Wilco Louw, Dewaldt Duvenage, Bongi Mbonambi, Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Robert du Preez (4). Penalties: Du Preez (2).

African News Agency (ANA)

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