Schalk Burger deservedly won the man of the match award but it was Peter Grant who made the most significant personal contribution as he spearheaded a 30-8 win for the Vodacom Stormers over the Lions at Newlands on Saturday.
Grant was overshadowed in the buildup by the presence in the opposition line-up of Springbok Andre Pretorius. However, on the day it appeared there was only one flyhalf on the field, with Grant scoring a try and adding three conversions and three penalties for a personal tally of 20 points.
The most effective way of limiting the influence of Pretorius was always going to be to keep the ball away from him, and that is exactly how it turned out as the home forwards turned in by far their most comprehensively impressive performance of the season.
The victory means the Vodacom Stormers jump a couple of places from second last on the Super 14 log table, while the Lions’ hopes of making the semi-finals appear to have finally been snuffed out. Both teams still have a mathematical chance, but it is no more than that.
It was the perfect way for the Stormers to begin the home leg, for the Lions had won a lot of friends before this game for their passion, commitment and bravery under fire. On the day it was the Vodacom Stormers who brought all those ingredients, plus quite fittingly a forward performance that blanketed their opponents, and a whole lot more besides.
Pretorius just never had ball to play with, and when he did, it was ball under pressure. it was the same for the other Lions backs, and though Jaque Fourie scored a good try, he was mostly kept quiet by an in-your-face Stormers defensive effort that effectively cut down space on both him and Pretorius.
Apart from Burger and Grant, the Vodacom Stormers again had their two locks, Andries Bekker and Gerrie Britz, in excellent form. They dominated the lineouts, and the scrums were not far off the pace either.
Much has been written and said about the Lions loose trio this season, but on the night they were completely blanketed and outplayed by their highly rated opponents, who had Watson, Burger, Justin Melck and replacement Joe van Niekerk all contributing.
Mention should also be made of Schalk Brits and Conrad Jantjes, for the two former Lions players were also stand-out players on the night.
The latter always seemed likely to make a greater contribution once moved back to his preferred position of fullback. Apart from helping the Vodacom Stormers for once win the territorial battle with the distance he attained with his touch kicks, Jantjes was a constant thorn in the Lions side with the way he followed up kicks, his tackling and his running.
Brits too is back to his best and he was probably the biggest factor on attack for the Vodacom Stormers for most of the first half. De Wet Barry also made some telling breaks, and of course Grant weaved his way in and out of the Lions defence after a prolonged build-up for the try that put the Stormers 10 points ahead at the break.
It could have been 13 points had Grant been on target with that missed penalty. The Lions played a part in their loss with some awful mistakes, but for much of the game they were forced into mistakes by their determined opponents.
Vodacom Stormers 30 – Tries: Peter Grant, De Wet Barry and Naas Olivier. Conversions: Peter Grant penalty 3; Penalties: Peter Grant 3.
Lions 8 Try: Jaque Fourie; Penalty: Andre Pretorius.