The Vodacom Stormers on Saturday lost their first Vodacom Super 14 match at Newlands after the overseas leg of their campaign 28-14 against the Chiefs.
The halftime score was 14-7 in favour of the New Zealand side, who are still strong contenders for a semi-final berth. The Stormers tried bravely for 80 minutes but the Chiefs were the better team on the day and deserved to win.
The Chiefs showed right from the outset they wanted to play with the ball in hand. They took the kick off and took the ball through their hands for the next 2 minutes and 40 seconds, in the process forcing several phases before a handling error brought an end to a good spell for the visitors.
It was the Stormers however who threatened to score the first try of the game in the 4th min. when Dewaldt Duvenhage broke away and ran hard for the right hand side corner flag, only to be chased down by a defender with a flying Tonderai Chavhanga on his shoulder.
The Chiefs were penalised for a dangerous tackle and flyhalf Willem de Waal failed with his attempt at goal. In the 10th min. the already injury-ravaged Stormers suffered yet another setback when fullback Conrad Jantjes left the field on the medical staff’s cart.
The Springbok hacked the ball ahead and sprinted for the ball with Chiefs flank Liam Messam. He glided soccer style to get to the ball first but made contact with Messam and stayed on the floor. Play was interrupted for 3 minutes while the medical staff attended to Jantjes.
University of Cape Town utility back Tiger Woods entered the fray for his Stormers debut.
In the 14th min. Stormers No 8 Luke Watson brilliantly beat a defender from the base of a scrum to set up his side’s first try. Watson made a lot of ground before wing Sireli Naqelevuki forced a ruck in which the Chiefs were penalised.
The Stormers opted for a scrum 6m from the Chiefs try-line and hit to the right where lock Hilton Lobberts forced another ruck. The forwards secured quick ball and a gap opened up nicely for De Waal to score the first five-pointer of the game. De Waal converted to hand his side a 7-0 lead.
The Chiefs however hit back in the 23rd min. when Messam – who ran a nice angle – finished a well-worked move from a ruck to dive over close to the poles. No 8 Sione Lauaki and flyhalf Stephen Donald featured prominently in the move that started close to the Stormers 22m-line. Donald converted to draw the scores level.
The Stormers woes didn’t end with the Jantjes injury, as flank and captain Schalk Burger cried off in the 32nd min. to be replaced by Pieter Louw.
The visitors made sure they would go into the break with the advantage in the 39th min. when Toby Morland dived over for a try. Donald’s long pass to Callum Bruce enabled his centre partner Richard Kahui to shake off two defenders on a strong run before the No 13 passed to Morland on his inside to finish. Donald added two to make the score 14-7.
The Stormers had their supporters on the edge of their seats when Chavhanga sparked a promising counter attack with an exciting run in the 46th. Flank Duane Vermeulen made a lot of ground with a strong run to the left and then the Stormers hit right again, only for Louw to slip and fall with the try-line in sight.
The Stormers received a free kick though and tapped and went but the move came to a halt close to the Chiefs try-line. The Chiefs then came desperately close to scoring again when Messam was tackled on the try-line by Louw and a team-mate and he lost the ball forward.
UCT lock Martin Muller replaced Hilton Lobberts at lock in the 52nd min. to make his debut for the Cape franchise – even before he played Currie Cup rugby.
Chiefs fullback and captain Mills Muliaina crossed the line in the 62nd min. after some sterling work by Messam and referee James Leckie referred the decision to the Television Match Official, who ruled no try.
Tighthead prop JD Moller left the field for Wicus Blaauw to make an entry.
The Chiefs scored their third try in the 64th min. when Kahui ripped open the defence and threw a beautiful pass on his inside to Morland, who had no problem crossing the try-line. Donald slotted his third conversion (21-7).
Schalk Brits, Ricky Januarie and Morgan Newman all took to the field in the 66th min. replacing Tiaan Liebenberg, Duvenhage and De Waal respectively. Newman went to inside centre, with Peter Grant moving to flyhalf.
The Chiefs clinched their bonus point in the 76th min. when outside centre Kahui managed to fight his way through an army of defenders from what seemed like an impossible position. Replacement flyhalf Mike Delany kicked the conversion (28-7).
The Stormers gave their supporters reason to cheer in the 80th min. when Naqelevuki burst through a gap to dive over for the team’s second try. Grant converted.
Vodacom Stormers – Tries: Willem de Waal, Sireli Naqelevuki; Conversions: Willem de Waal (1), Peter Grant (1).
Chiefs – Tries: Liam Messam, Toby Morland (2), Richard Kahui; Conversions: Stephen Donald (3), Mike Delany (1).