Stormers choose a draw in Newlands thriller against Crusaders
Super Rugby / 18 May 2019, 7:09pm / Ashfak Mohamed at Newlands
CAPE TOWN – If ever you wanted to gauge whether the Stormers are an ambitious team or not, you just had to evaluate their decision-making with seconds to go against the Crusaders at Newlands on Saturday night.
After a heart and soul, rumble-in-the-jungle effort from the hosts against the mighty nine-time champions, it all came down to one last penalty inside the Crusaders 22.
With the score at 19-16 to the Crusaders, the Stormers had to decide whether they wanted a draw by kicking to the posts, or booting it out for a five-metre lineout.
Sadly, they chose the former.
Replacement flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis slotted the three-pointer to end an exhilarating night at the grand old ground, which underlined the mindset of the
outfit during the Robbie Fleck era…
The Stormers’ monumental effort – despite a few shaky kicks and questionable tactics – deserved them going to touch with the late penalty.
There were screams from the touchline and captain Siya Kolisi – who had scored a wonderful try himself – on what to do, and ultimately, Du Plessis was asked to belt the ball through the uprights.
Of course Fleck and his team would’ve grabbed a 19-19 draw before kickoff, but on the evidence of their performance, the Stormers should’ve won the game.
It was the skipper who set the tone as early as the sixth minute. From a clean lineout ball, Josh Stander found a flying Kolisi, who burst through the first line of defence, and then left Richie Mo’unga for dead in a piece of footwork reminiscent of the one where he beat Elton Jantjies in the past.
The noisy ‘Cape Crusaders’ in the Danie Craven Stand standing room were silenced, and the early try provided the necessary momentum for the Stormers pack to put their foot down.
Led by a marauding Kolisi, a busy Pieter-Steph du Toit and a robust Eben Etzebeth, the Capetonians eventually found the favour of referee Nic
’s whistle, as the Australian made a few iffy calls for the visitors initially.
The Stormers may be ruing an early decision to kick to touch instead of taking the three points, although they got another opportunity before the end of the first quarter, which Stander slotted for a 10-0 lead.
But the Crusaders, even on the back foot, know how to sneak their way into a game, and it was Matt Todd who forced his way over from a driving maul in the 28th minute.
The Stormers should’ve had more points on the board for their hard work, and it came back to hurt them as the Crusaders scored a sensational try to take the lead before halftime.
Flyhalf magician Mo’unga pulled off an audacious chip in the tackle inside the Stormers 22, and the ball flew straight into the hands of outstanding fullback David Havili, who dived in under the posts.
With a 12-10 deficit, the Stormers needed to score first after halftime, but it was not to be.
A midfield break by the visitors, with an injured Damian de Allende unable to close down the space, led to Brayden Ennor racing in on the left, and suddenly it was 19-10 to the Crusaders.
Full-time at DHL Newlands and it ends a 19-19 draw between the DHL Stormers and the Crusaders. It was an epic match, but in the end there was no separating the teams. See you next week for the Highlanders game. #STOvCRU#iamastormer
Stander missed a crucial penalty soon after that, and even though he kicked one over six minutes later, the Crusaders were still 19-13 up.
Replacement pivot Du Plessis slotted another three-pointer to set up a thrilling finish, but the Stormers hung in.
The Crusaders, though, could’ve wrapped things up with five minutes left when Sevu Reece chipped ahead and scored, but the TMO ruled that the pass to him was forward – although the decision was debatable.
It allowed the Stormers one last charge, and after Damian Willemse just couldn’t collect the ball from a classy Du Plessis chip-ahead, it came down to the final kick for a draw.