The Vodacom Stormers could not withstand a fierce onslaught from the Hurricanes in the last quarter of their Vodacom Super 14 game at Newlands on Saturday and went down 23-19.
The Stormers led 9-3 at halftime, but squandered the lead against a committed Hurricanes side who refused to lied down. The Stormers had the better of the New Zealand team in the scrums and lineouts, but that didn’t deter the Kiwi’s.
Stormers fans were delighted to see centre Jean de Villiers and lock Andries Bekker taking the field after passing fitness tests on Friday afternoon. De Villiers missed the previous three games with a groin injury, while Bekker sat out last Saturday’s defeat to the Highlanders due to an abdominal muscle injury.
The Hurricanes made a few changes too to the announced side with Isaia Toeava coming in at fullback in place of Shannon Paku. David Holwell instead of Jimmy Gopperth played at flyhalf and Paul Tito appeared at lock in place of Luke Andrews.
The Stormers started the game on a positive note when flyhalf Peter Grant succeeded with difficult penalty attempt in the 8th minute after the Hurricanes transgressed in a ruck.
In the 15th the Hurricanes again were penalized for not releasing the ball on the ground and Grant made no mistake to increase the lead to 6-0.
Grant added three more points in the 21st minute after Hurricanes flanker Chris Masoe was penalized for a dangerous tackle on his Stormers counterpart Schalk Burger (9-0).
Grant had to leave the field for a blood injury in the 24th minute and Naas Olivier took his place at flyhalf.
The Hurricanes got their first points of the game in the 30th minute when Holwell slotted a penalty after Stormers left wing Marius Joubert was penalized for an illegal tackle on Toeava.
Holwell failed with a penalty attempt in the 34th minute and Grant also missed one in the 40th to leave the halftime score at 9-3 in favour of the home side.
The Hurricanes drew first blood after the resumption when captain and No 8 Rodney So’oialo scored in the 43rd minute after a powerful rolling maul from the visitors’ pack. Holwell ensured that his team led for the first time by slotting the conversion (10-9).
The Stormers riposte, however, was quick and deadly effective. Ross Skeate took a lineout ball at two, passed it back to hooker Schalk Brits who sprinted from the 22m-line and knocked replacement prop Tim Fairbrother out of his way before falling over in the corner.
The decision was referred to the television match official, who confirmed it was a legal try. Grant converted and the score was 16-10.
The flyhalf then stretched the lead with another penalty after De Villiers made a good tackle on So’oialo and the Hurricanes were penalized for going over in the ruck (19-10). In the 58th ninute Grant had a chance to add to his points’ tally via a penalty, but fluffed the kick.
Jimmy Gopperth replaced Holwell at flyhalf for the Canes with 20 minutes to go and injected new life in their attacking play. Gopperth slotted a penalty in the 64th minute to make the score 19-13 after Ross Skeate was penalised for a high tackle.
The Hurricanes, desperate for a win, went all out for a victory and had the Stormers defences at sixes and sevens. They also had two penalties in kickable positions, but kicked for position.
Their bravery was rewarded when centre Tane Tuipulotu scored after some intense pressure on the home try-line. Gopperth couldn’t convert from the touchline to leave the match at a knife-edge at 19-18 with five minutes left on the clock.
Stormers fans were shell-shocked when wing Hosea Gear burst through four tackles in confined space to score what proved to be the winning try (23-19) in the 78th minute.
Vodacom Stormers – Try: Schalk Brits;
Conversion: Peter Grant;
Penalties: Peter Grant (4).
Hurricanes – Tries: Rodney So’oialo, Tane Tuipulotu, Hosea Gear;
Conversion: David Holwell;
Penalties: David Holwell (1), Jimmy Gopperth (1).