Stormers squander 11-point lead to lose to Benetton in URC opener
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The Stormers chucked an 11-point lead in the second half of their United Rugby Championship debut against Benetton to go down 18-22.
While it was all Benetton early on as they dominated the territory and possession stats in the first half, their error rate prevented them from turning their advantage into more points and the Stormers were well in control after half time.
The set-pieces were evenly matched with both the lineout and scrum going well for both sides in the opening half, but the Stormers could have done a better job defensively as they slipped off some tackles.
With an 18-7 lead after 45 minutes, it looked like the South Africans were well on their way to a positive result, but a poor showing in the last 30 minutes of the contest sunk them, while the home side just kept on getting better.
At flyhalf, Sharks recruit Manie Libbok produced a promising display for the Stormers - a side that has struggled to find a solution at No 10 for years now. Loose forwards Nama Xaba and Evan Roos also produced strong outings.
Centre Rikus Pretorius got the Stormers off to a good start when he gathered a grubber from fullback Warrick Gelant. Benetton, however, hit back to take a 7-5 lead after the Stormers defence failed them.
Libbok added two penalties to give the visitors an 11-7 lead at half-time, and the Stormers started strongly in the second half and got rewarded for their vigour when Ruhan Nel showed some good feet to cross after the team worked the ball through the hands. Libbok made no mistake with the extras this time to take the score to 7-18.
The Capetonians spread it more after the break in a good recovery from the first 40. The hosts, however, hit back with their own form and pushed the Stormers. They made it count when they showed some intent and opted for the corner, turning down an easy three points. Ivan Nemer went over to take the score to 18-14 with 20 minutes to play, and when flyhalf Tomas Albornoz slotted a penalty from 40-metres out shortly afterwards, it set the score at 17-18.
Benetton buried the Stormers with a try after some good attacking play, with Tommaso Menoncello finishing off the move.
The Cape side next face Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday.
Benetton 22 - Tries: Gianmarco Lucchesi, Ivan Nemer, Tommaso Menoncello; Conversions: Tomas Albornoz (2); Penalty: Albornoz
Stormers 18 - Tries: Rikus Pretorius, Ruhan Nel; Conversion: Manie Libbok; Penalties: Libbok (2)