The Vodacom Stormers ran out deserving 37-13 winners on the back of a spectacular first half display against the Hurricanes in a Vodacom Super 14 clash at the Newlands Rugby Stadium on Saturday evening, after leading 20-3 at the break.
Three first-half tries set up the Stormers for their second successive bonus point victory, which materialised when prop Brok Harris crashed over for the home side’s fourth try of the match. Jaque Fourie scored the Stormers’ fifth try near the end.
Some 32 seconds into the match, the Stormers were gifted a penalty 35 metres out when the Hurricanes went offside after they kicked ahead. Fullback Joe Pietersen punished the offence with an excellent kick (3-0).
The Hurricanes managed to secure ample possession after this early setback.
However, they repeatedly chose to run the ball from inside their half, rather than kick upfield to improve their field position.
The ploy backfired because the Stormers’ defence seldom allowed them to progress beyond the halfway line. On the few occasions they looked like making headway, infringements crept into their game and the Stormers replied with counter-attacks which were sprung with interesting variations as forwards and backs dovetailed splendidly.
It was only a matter of time before the enterprising Stormers would breach the opposition defence and a ninth minute attack produced a deserving try which was magnificently rounded off by right wing Sereli Naqelevuki who took a scoring pass from Pietersen. The conversion failed (8-0).
Whatever thoughts the Hurricanes may have had of forcing their way back into the picture were quickly dispelled by the hard tackling Stormers but the New Zealand visitors did manage to open their scoring account in the 19th minute via a Piri Weepu penalty (8-3).
The Stormers bounced back with a superb pressure spell which the Hurricanes found hard to contain and they enjoyed a let-off when Naqelevuki’s 28th minute touch-down was disallowed because of a forward pass in the build-up work.
But by this time the Stormers were rampant much to the delight of the 44 500 strong-crowd and, in a wave of attacks, they played wide several times. In the space of nine minutes ahead of the halftime break they breached the defence twice close to the corner flags through Pietersen and eighthman Duane Vermeulen. Pietersen managed one conversion to give the Stormers a commanding 20-3 lead at the break.
The Hurricanes made a brave effort to break down the stubborn Stormers’ defence after the break when they ran hard with ball in hand but after nine minutes of trying they came away empty handed. Thrice they managed to take play up to the Stormers’ tryline.
Once the Stormers saw off that threat they regrouped in spectacular fashion and the Hurricanes’ defence were again sorely tested.
The Stormers were denied a 53rd minute try after TV replays proved inconclusive but five minutes later flyhalf Peter Grant intervened in spectacular fashion to pave the way for prop Brok Harris to snatch the Stormers’ bonus point try. Pietersen added the conversion to open up a 24-point margin (27-3).
A few minutes later the Stormers’ brains trust decided to clear their substitutes bench and straight away the home side lost its look of invincibility and, in the 68th minute, they leaked a try with Hurricanes left wing David Smith scampering in at the corner for an unconverted try (27-8).
But there was more to come from the home side when their substitutes found their rhythm and after Pietersen goaled a late penalty for a 30-8 lead, Jacque Fourie helped himself to a try a minute ahead of the final whistle. Pietersen added the conversion (37-8).
The Hurricanes had one last run at the Stormers’ defence and the ploy paid off when substitute wing Alapati Leiua scored an unconverted try to round off the scoring in the match at 37-13.
Vodacom Stormers: Tries: Sireli Naqelevuki, Joe Pietersen, Duane Vermeulen, Brok Harris and Jaque Fourie; Conversions: Pietersen (3); Penalties: Pietersen (2).
Hurricanes: Tries: David Smith and Alapati Leiua; Penalty: Piri Weepu.