“WHAT a match!”
Those certainly aren’t the words one would easily use to describe the first 65 or so minutes of the Stormers’ Super Rugby-opener against the Jaguares at Newlands yesterday.
But those three words probably don’t provide enough of an impact to aptly describe the last quarter of the first Super Rugby game of the 2018 season.
The Stormers had most of the say in the opening minutes of the game, but impatience and rushed play led to a couple of balls that went astray, which put a stop to a number of attacking opportunities for the hosts in the first quarter.
It would also be fair to say the first half belonged to the Cape team, but after the interval, they allowed the Argentinians to get into the game.
That rushed play and those scattered balls led to the Jaguares looking threatening for quite a while with ball in hand as they got into Stormers 22 a couple of times, and a high tackle by Nizaam Carr gave Jaguares flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez the chance to get the first points on the scoreboard.
Carr didn’t do much else wrong in the game, though, with his forward pass in the first half probably the only other big “oops” moment in his performance, while his contribution to the Stormers’ attack and his defence stood out.
He also showed his class with great linking play in the build-up to Stormers debutant Raymond Rhule’s try early in the second half,
This saw the winger show his pace down touch and add a dummy pass to the show before dotting down in the corner.
Fullback Dillyn Leyds was also dangerous in terms of creating play from the back and linked up well with Seabelo Senatla on his right – and the Springbok Sevens’ star’s running and swerving were enough to cause panic for the men in orange a number of times.
Inside centre Damian de Allende scored the Stormers’ opener in great style and also produced a couple of good touches in the game, while captain Siya Kolisi got the Stormers’ second touchdown – and one that could easily have scooped the try-of-the-game award – when he received the ball after a lineout in the opposition 22 and stormed right over a defender, before straightening his line and diving over for a superb five-pointer.
The conversion attempt was also a sight to behold as flyhalf Damian Willemse’s kick got charged down, although Jaco Peyper should probably have had another look at exactly when the defender’s run-up started.
Lock JD Schickerling was also a top performer with his hard work up front, and it was enough to bag him the Man of the Match award.
But back to those last few minutes.
Jaguares wing Emiliano Boffelli’s try – the first for the visitors – after he caught the Stormers napping on defence in their own 22 signalled the start of what would turn out to be an edge-of-the-seat period.
The Stormers have no-one but themselves to blame for the way they let the Argentinians into the game in the second half.
They went from leading 22-6 soon after the interval to holding on for dear life towards the end of the game.
But, on the other hand, you can also argue that they showed character to survive the last quarter, which saw them do most of the defending.
In the last 15 minutes, the Jaguares put heavy pressure on the hosts and spent a good couple of minutes in their red zone.
After multiple scrum resets and a yellow card to Stormers replacement hooker Ramone Samuels, Peyper had had enough of the Stormers and awarded the visitors a penalty which took the score to 25-20.
But after some more time spent inside their own 22, the hosts pulled through and produced a monster scrum that saw Peyper’s decsion go their way and allow the Stormers to finally get out of the danger zone.
After a few more tense moments, a no-ball tackle on Willemse gave the pivot a chance to stretch the lead.
And he did, right as the full-time whistle went.
It perhaps wasn’t the start the Stormers wanted.
But if they want to take something positive out of the encounter, it should be the knowledge that every Super Rugby game can be as tough as any other - and that can only be a lesson for them as they prepare to take on the Waratahs in Sydney next week before their dates with the Crusaders and the Highlanders in New Zealand.
Stormers Tries: Damian de Allende, Siya Kolisi, Raymond Rhule Conversions: Damian Willemse (2) Penalties: Willemse (3) Yellow card: Ramone Samuels
Jaguares Tries: Emiliano Boffelli, Penalty Try .Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez Penalties: Sanchez, Boffelli Yellow card: Joaquin Tuculet