Ten points from two games on tour thus far. That is the story of the Vodacom Stormers.
The Stormers beat the Chiefs 35-26 in Hamilton on Friday, thus ensuring their second successive victory after losing their first three games. The Stormers again scored four tries to make sure of the bonus point. They led 25-13 at halftime.
It is quite a remarkable turnaround from the team who was rooted at the bottom of the log after three rounds of the competition.
It was a much improved performance by the Stormers in the scrums, where they gave the Chiefs a hard time, spoiling the home side’s possession. They also poached ruck ball at almost will and created a lot of attacking opportunities.
The Stormers again showed some bite on the attack, but like last week they could have scored at least two more tries if their finishing was better. They applied good pressure on defence, forcing the adventurous Chiefs into mistakes.
Coach Rassie Erasmus would have a huge grin after the match, not only about the victory, but also about the improved performances by his captain Jean de Villiers and big wing Sereli Naqelevuki.
De Villiers was a rock on defence, but his attacking prowess gave the Chiefs headaches. Sireli was used much more effectively on the attack and his willingness to become involved was an eye-opener.
The Chiefs drew first blood in the 5th minute. Stormers lock Adriaan Fondse was caught offside after a Chiefs player was tackled and Stephen Donald slotted the penalty beautifully from close to the touchline.
The Stormers had a great attacking opportunity from a free kick close to the Chiefs try-line two minutes later. They opted to scrum, but a forward pass from No 8 Luke Watson saw that move came a cropper.
They got the scoreboard ticking though when flyhalf Peter Grant succeeded with a penalty after the Chiefs were penalized for offside at the tackle (3-3).
A cruel bounce of the ball denied the Stormers a try in the 14th minute after excellent play by scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, who fielded a ball and kicked ahead. Lock Andries Bekker was flying after the ball with no defender in sight, but the bounce was unfavourable.
Januarie regained the ball, but the Stormers lost it forward in the ensuing movement.
The visitors did get a five-pointer however when Grant powerfully ripped the defence apart on a 10m-run from a ruck. The Stormers gave the Chiefs a torrid time in a set scrum and Francois Louw won a turnover ball in the ruck before Watson passed the ball to Grant.
The Chiefs fell for the flyhalf’s dummy and he put head down and charged through the defence. The referee had to consult the Television Match Official, who ruled in Grant’s favour. The flyhalf converted to make the score 10-3 after 16 minutes.
Donald ate into the deficit by slotting a penalty in the 20th minute when the Stormers was penalized for deliberately slowing the ball down in a ruck.
Stormers left wing Tonderai Chavhanga then scored what surely must rate as one of the tries of the season thus far when he exploded from the flyhalf position after a ruck.
He fended off the first defender, sprinted between two more and then rounded the last line of defence in a lightning quick 55m sprint. Grant couldn’t convert, but his team led 15-6 after 24 minutes.
Donald failed with a penalty in the 26th minute.
The Stormers mangaged another turnover via Schalk Brits and they were awarded a free kcik. The livewire Januarie tapped quickly and ran far before Naqelevuki took it deep into Chiefs territory. Jantjes struggled to control the ball, but with an open try-line he didn’t make any mistake for his first Super 14 try of the season.
Grant stretched the lead by adding two (22-6). The Stormers paid for some cumbersome passing at the back when Chiefs inside centre Richard Kahui intercepted a Jantjes pass and scored under the poles. Donald converted to give the Chiefs renewed hope at 22-13.
Grant failed with a penalty attempt in the 35th minute after a Chiefs player was penalized for joining a ruck from the side.
Stormers captain De Villiers was denied a try by the TMO, who ruled the centre was in touch before he dotted down. Naqelevuki made the line break to send De Villiers away.
The Capetonians spilled a great chance of scoring a try when they poached yet another
Chiefs ball in a ruck. The big men tried to drive the ball over the try-line, but Fondse lost it when he tried to barge over. Grant added three via a penalty goal though in the 39th minute to make the halftime score 25-13.
Flank Francois Louw was punished for hands in the ruck for Donald to succeed from 40m out in the 42nd minute to make the score 25-16.
A poor kick and then poor defence by the Stormers gifted the Chiefs 7 points. Right wing Lelia Masaga ghosted through the narrowest of gaps between Andries Bekker and Jantjes to score under the posts for Donald to convert.
Suddenly it was game on at 25-23 and Stormers supporters saw visions of last week’s fight back from the Chiefs when they erased a 17-0 lead against the Cheetahs to triumph. The Stormers gave themselves a bit of breathing space though when Grant slotted a penalty in the 53rd minute.
The Stormers stretched their lead in dramatic fashion when the referee award them a penalty try in the 55th minute. He penalized the Chiefs for offside play at a tackle after the Stormers broke out from their own half via Jantjes, Naqelevuki and finally Burger, who was seemingly tackled out at the corner flag.
Much to the delight (and surprise) of the blonde flanker – and the disgust of the home team and crowd – the referee awarded his side a penalty try. Grant converted and suddenly the Stormers enjoyed a 12-point lead again.
Donald slotted a penalty in the 59th and the Chiefs supporters had reason to smile again. The Stormers had to fend of an aggressive onslaught from the home side in the last vife minutes.
Twice the Chiefs crossed the Stormers try-line, but twice they were denied by mistakes. It was a deserved victory for the Stormers, who now face the Blues in Auckland in their next match.
Points’ scorers: Chiefs – Tries: Richard Kahui, Lelia Masaga;
Conversions: Stephen Donald (2);
Penalties: Stephen Donald (4).
Vodacom Stormers – Tries: Peter Grant, Tonderai Chavhanga, Conrad Jantjes,
Penalty try; Conversion: Peter Grant (3);
Penalty: Peter Grant (3).