The DHL Stormers went down 21-30 to the Rebels in Super Rugby action at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Friday.
Both teams scored three tries in this Super Rugby encounter, but the DHL Stormers conceded a late penalty try to go down in their final match on tour.
It was an unlucky ending for the Stormers who were leading 21-20 with just over five minutes of play left. The ball was knocked on in the tackle as the Rebels hacked it ahead, but hooker Martin Bezuidenhout was penalised and yellow carded for allegedly holding back a Rebels player.
Crucially, however, the Rebels were also awarded a penalty try, which was converted, with a late penalty goal – also by Jason Woodward – putting the Stormers out of losing bonus point contention in the closing stages.
The Stormers, missing over 10 of their top players due to injuries going into this fixture, led 14-13 at half-time after a slow start to the match but they also fought back well in the second half to regain the lead after conceding a try to Rebels lock Hugh Pyle in the 53rd minute.
Woodward’s conversion of Pyle’s try put the Rebels into a 20-14 lead, but the DHL Stormers rallied back with a converted Andries Bekker try (his fourth of the season) to lead 21-20 going into the final quarter.
The Stormers were unable to convert some final attacking opportunities and they went behind with the penalty try – trailing 21-27 with three minutes left on the clock.
However, the Rebels rubbed salt into their wounds with that penalty goal by Woodward – robbing them off a losing bonus point, as the Men from Cape Town suffered yet another close defeat in a Super Rugby season of the tiniest margins.
Earlier, first-half tries by scrumhalf Louis Schreuder and winger Bryan Habana saw the Stormers lead 14-13 at half-time, the Rebels having scored a converted try and two penalties in the first half.
Schreuder’s try came from a bit of individual brilliance – after not being held in the tackle – whilst Habana run onto a brilliant ball from lock Eben Etzebeth who was put into a gap via a deft pass from flyhalf Elton Jantjies.
The Stormers will return to Cape Town on Saturday night, after four tough games abroad, and will host the Reds (of Australia) at DHL Newlands next Saturday (kick-off 17h05).
For the Rebels:
Tries: Higginbotham, Pyle, Penalty try
Cons: Woodward 3
Pens: Woodward 3
For the DHL Stormers:
Tries: Schreuder, Habana, Bekker
Cons: Pietersen 3
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Lachlan Mitchell, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Luke Jones, 19 Gareth Delve, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Kimami Sitauti.
DHL Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Brok Harris, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Don Armand, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)