The Vodacom Stormers on Friday night had a golden opportunity to beat the much vaunted Brumbies in their Vodacom Super 14 match, but just couldn’t land the killer blow.
The home side enjoyed a 9-3 lead at halftime, but like last Saturday against the Waratahs, surrended the lead in the second half to the well-drilled Brumbies. The two teams in the end shared the honours with a 15-15 scoreline.
The Brumbies, however, scored two tries, while the home side had to rely on the kicking boot of flyhalf Peter Grant, who scored five penalties.
The Stormers had their chances, but failed to finish promising movements through poor handling. Wings Rayno Benjamin and Jonghi Nokwe were two of the main culprits.
The home team’s lineout play was much better than last week against the Waratahs and they held their own in the scrums. The inability to finish, however, marred the performance.
The Stormers did the early attacking work and had the crowd on their feet when they worked the ball to right wing Benjamin.
The Boland star chip-kicked ahead, but George Gregan salvage the situation by kicking the ball out behind his try-line. The Stormers duly won the scrum and hit to the right, where referee Steve Walsh penalized the Brumbies for offside play.
Peter Grant converted to give the home side a 3-0 lead after 8 minutes. The flyhalf extended the lead with another penalty in the 17th minute after the Brumbies under pressure failed to release the ball in a ruck.
Brumbies captain Stirling Mortlock hit back with a penalty in the 20th minute (6-3). Grant was on song again in the 33rd minute and extended the lead to 9-3 with a well-taken penalty.
In the last minute of the first half Morltock had a chance to reduce the deficit, but he fluffed a kickable penalty attempt to allow the home side to go into the break with a 9-3 lead.
In the 43rd minute the visitors squandered a gilt-edged try-scoring opportunity. Left wing Clyde Rathbone cut the home defence to shreds before offloading to Mortlock, who knocked on with the try-line begging.
The Stormers hit back with the constantly alert Bolla Conradie kicked off quickly from the 22m-line. The scrumhalf and Benjamin exerted a lot of pressure on centre Matt Giteau, who was penalized for not releasing the ball.
Grant added three more to make the score 12-3 in the 45th minute.
The Brumbies, in a moment of insanity, tried a quick throw from a lineout 5 metres from their try-line. No 8 Jone Tawake battled to control the ball and was tackled.
From the resulting scrum the Stormers were awarded a penalty and Grant made no mistake (12-3).
The Brumbies, however, got the first try on the scoreboard after great work by wing Mark Gerrard and Gregan. Lock Allister Campbell got the five-pointer and Gerrad converted to make the score 15-10.
The Stormers had the Australians on the back foot for a long period after impressive lock Ross Skeate poached a lineout ball, but they couldn’t break through. Nokwe knocked on and the Brumbies came with a blistering counter attack.
Fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper finished a superb backline movement in the left hand corner despite a desperate diving tackle from Benjamin. Walsh referred the decision to the TV match official, who ruled it a legal try. Gerrard failed with the conversion attempt to leave the score level at 15-15.
The Stormers made their first substitutions with 12 minutes left when Henk Eksteen and Neil Fullard replaced Andries Bekker and Eddie Andrews.
The Stormers put in a huge effort in the last four minutes in search of the elusive winning points. In the 77th minute they came close, but under heavy pressure Burger just couldn’t hold on to Nowke’s pass.
Brumbies – Tries: Allister Campbell, Adam Ashley-Cooper; Conversion: Mark Gerrard; Penalty: Stirling Mortlock.
Vodacom Stormers – Penalties: Peter Grant (5).