Stormers down Lions at the death in thrilling Super Rugby clash
JOHANNESBURG – A never-say-die attitude by the Stormers allowed them to snatch a late, late win against the Lions in a thrilling round-three Super Rugby match here on Saturday.
Centre Ruhan Nel was the big hero as he collected the ball and scored after an iffy pass at the end of a long passage of play by the Stormers to ensure his team remained unbeaten after three rounds of action. At the same time it was pain and disbelief for the Lions who produced their best effort by some distance this season, but the defeat has left them with a one-from-three record ahead of their Australasian tour.
It was a full-blooded and action-packed game, with the young Lions desperate to show they are still contenders rather than pretenders in the competition, while the Stormers were out to make it three in a row after earlier beating the Hurricanes and Bulls. This was the Capetonains’ first win in Joburg since 2015.
In the end the Stormers had too much class and experience for the Lions, with stand-in captain Steven Kitshoff outstanding in all departments. The Springbok World Cup winning loosehead prop was a rock in the scrums – where the Lions’ Jannie du Plessis again battled to assert himself – while in the loose, he won ball and penalties at the breakdown and also put in his fair share of tackles.
Not far behind Kitshoff was Pieter-Steph du Toit, Salmaan Moerat and Juarno Augustus, while at the back Damian Willemse varied his game well.
Here is that dramatic late try in the 82nd minute by Ruhan Nel that saw the @THESTORMERS steal a victory against the @LionsRugbyCo for the first time since 2015 at Emirates Airline Park 😓🏉#SuperRugby pic.twitter.com/3cHL7t95vG— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) February 15, 2020
But as dominant and as clinical as the Stormers were, the Lions gave as good as they got. They became the first team to score points against the Capetonians and they asked several questions of the visitors to Joburg – up-front and at the back. They were especially dangerous late on when the game opened up and when some of the replacements entered the action, but they also let themselves down over the course of the 80 minutes.
Their scrum and lineout was again a bit wonky, while their passing and catching wasn’t at the level expected in Super Rugby.
In a tight opening 10 minutes, the Stormers created the first try-scoring chance when Seabelo Senatla pounced on a loose ball and hacked it ahead, but just before he could run in an opening try he was cut down by Tyrone Green. The Lions made the visitors pay a few minutes later when Elton Jantjies slotted a penalty to give his side an early lead.
The Stormers then hit back with tries by No 8 Augustus – after the Lions had earlier lost a lineout throw-in inside their own 22m area – and scrumhalf Godlen Masimla, who intercepted a pass on the halfway line and ran in untouched.
It was then the turn of the Lions to strike a double blow and get themselves right back into the contest. First, Andries Coetzee dived over in the right-hand corner after a period of sustained pressure by the home team, and after the Stormers’ Jamie Roberts had dropped the ball from the restart and gifted the Lions possession, and then wing Courtnall Skosan dotted down after receiving an excellently-weighted kick-pass by Jantjies.
The Stormers though took an 18-15 lead into the break after two late first half penalties by Damian Willemse and the visitors would surge ahead in the early stages of the second half with a further try by wing Sergeal Petersen, and a third penalty by Willemse.
But, with several Lions replacements entering the action, including veteran loose-forward Willem Alberts, the home team staged a big fightback. They applied plenty of pressure on the Stormers defence and their ball-in-hand approach paid dividends with Elton Jantjies and Dan Kriel scoring tries around the 70th minute. A further penalty by Jantjies put the Lions 30-26 up with two minutes to play and in charge.
The Stormers though had other plans. From the restart they won possession, took the ball through several phases and centre Nel crossed for the winning try. Jean-Luc du Plessis added the extras in what can only be described as a stunning victory by the Capetonians, but heartbreak for the Lions.