The Vodacom Stormers finished the overseas leg of their Vodacom Super 14 campaign on the perfect note by earning five points in their match against the Western Force in Perth on Friday.
The Stormers won 32-16 after enjoying a 20-11 lead at halftime. They thoroughly deserved their victory, having tackled like demons and putting their bodies on the line in every aspect of the game.
The Cape franchise posted their best return in Super rugby by clinching three wins in four games. And the one they lost – against the Blues – could so easily been a draw if it weren’t for a last-gasp penalty.
Rassie Erasmus and his troops can now look forward to a nice break next weekend before resuming their quest for a semifinal berth on 12 April against the Cheetahs at Newlands.
Wing Tonderai Chavhanga was again impressive, dotting down twice and giving the defence headaches with his blistering speed. It was, however, a big team effort, with all the squad members stepping up to the plate and contributing.
Chavhanga’s early try and a conversion by flyhalf Peter Grant gave the visitors the early ascendancy, but in the 14th min the Force showed why they are contenders for a semi-final spot.
They executed an elaborate backline movement to perfection and flyhalf Matt Giteau handled twice – the second time slicing open the defensive line to send wing Drew Mitchell away. Sereli Naqelevuki’s desperate attempt to tackle the wing out at the corner flag was unrewarded when the TMO ruled the try was good.
In the 18th minute Giteau handed his side the lead after Stormers flanker Schalk Burger was penalised for a high tackle.
The Stormers hit back though when Grant bashed through a tackle from a scrum and offloaded to the flying Chavhanga, who had no problem to score under the posts. Grant added two to make the lead 14-8.
In the 34th the big pivot stretched the lead to 17-8 with a penalty.
Disaster struck in the 37th though, when Burger received a yellow card for not rolling away after tackling an opponent. Giteau slotted the penalty kikc to make the score 17-11.
The Stormers may well have been awarded a penalty try on the stroke of halftime. Centre Gcobani Bobo was well on his way to scoring after hacking the ball forward after a knock on by Force.
He was held back by an opponent, but the referee was oblivious to the Stormers’ appeal for a penalty try. Grant, however, succeeded with the resultant penalty to make the score 20-11 at halftime.
Grant had a chance to increase the lead in the 45th minute, but his attempt went just wide.
In the 50th Burger came tantalisingly close to scoring on the corner flag, but a desperate tackle denied him a five-pointer. Grant then in the 53rd minute failed with another kickable penalty attempt.
In the 62nd minute the Springbok yet again failed to hit the mark with a penalty attempt, giving the Force some hope of a come-from-behind victory.
The Stormers had other ideas though. Jean de Villiers managed a trademark intercept in the 64th minute and ran almost 70 metres to score under the posts. Grant added two to make the game almost safe.
It was prop Brok Harris who hit the final nail in the Force’s coffin and ensured the bonus point in the 70th minute after De Villiers sparked another exhilirating movement. Burger took it further into enemy territory and two rucks later Harris barged over from close range.
This time Tony Brown – who earlier replaces Bobo – failed with the conversion.
The Force came with a huge onslaught in the final ten minutes, but could only show one try – by centre Ryan Cross in the 79th minute – for their efforts.
Vodacom Stormers – Tries: Tonderai Chavhanga (2), Jean de Villiers, Brok Harris; Conversions: Peter Grant (3); Penalties: Peter Grant (2).
Western Force – Try: Drew Mitchell, Ryan Cross; Penalties: Matt Giteau (2).