The Vodacom Stormers finished the overseas leg of their Vodacom Super 14 campaign on a disappointing note when they went down 36-11 to the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.
The champions led 17-3 at halftime after a somewhat slow start. Their returning All Blacks however soon found their feet and eventually played a huge roll in what turned out to be an emphatic victory.
The home side scored the bonus point try after the siren that signaled the end of the match went off. Wing Rico Gear finished an exhilarating move initiated by a breakaway from big lock Chris Jack and Gear had no trouble in beating replacement fullback Naas Olivier to score his team’s fourth try.
After the Stormers controlled the first 15 minutes the Hurricanes found their rhythm and showed they had more than enough ammunition for the Cape side, who only briefly after halftime threatened to silence the home crowd.
Except for that period the Stormers never seemed to be able to get out of first gear. They battled in the scrum and their forwards couldn’t stamp their authority on the opposition. They managed to string a few phases together on occasions, but was not able to breach the defence.
That led to coach Kobus van der Merwe replacing the starting lock pairing of Francois van der Merwe and Ross Skeate and prop JD Moller at halftime in an effort to inject some aggression and urgency into the pack.
Van der Merwe gave all his replacements a run later in the game when it was clear the Stormers would not manage their third win on tour. They now return home to Cape Town to enjoy a bye next weekend.
The Stormers started positively enough, opting to go for five points when they received a penalty in a kickable position in the 10th minute. The Hurricanes, however, poached the lineout ball close to their own try-line and it was an opportunity lost for the visitors.
Crusaders flyhalf Daniel Carter was in sublime form and showed his exile from the game hasn’t done his talents any harm. The All Black’s prolific kicking skills directly led to his side’s first two tries.
In the 26th minute Carter’s cross kick after a scrum was perfect for wing Scott Hamilton, who beat fullback Gio Aplon before sending a flying Casey Laulala away to the try-line. In the 33rd minute Gear scored his first try after a superb chip kick by Carter fell just right for Laulala who handed the ball to Gear whose speed carried him through.
The Stormers fought back and it took them only 40 seconds after the restart to score. They regained the ball from the kick-off and No 8 Justin Melck made good ground before forcing a ruck.
Schalk Ferreira got the ball out with a diving pass and Schalk Burger drew three defenders before offloading to Barry who scored. The conversion from Grant made the deficit only 6 points.
The Crusaders, however, was not happy with that situation and Carter slotted two penalties to allow his team to breath a bit easier. In the 69th minute fullback Leon MacDonald put the result beyond doubt when he scored after some good interaction between the forwards and back, with Richie McCaw delivering the final pass.
Crusaders – Tries: Casey Laulala, Rico Gear (2), Leon MacDonald; Conversions: Daniel Carter (2); Penalties: Daniel Carter (4)
Vodacom Stormers – Try: De Wet Barry; Penalties: Peter Grant (2).