The Vodacom Stormers and the Waratahs played to a 13-13 draw in their crunch Super 14 match at Newlands on Saturday.
The Waratahs led 6-5 at halftime.
It was a war of attrition on a typical Cape Town winters day punctuated by heavy rain and swirling winds inside the stadium. Both teams found it tough to handle the wet ball and it was intriguing battle for survival in the race for a semifinal berth.
The Waratahs shaded the Stormers in the battle for possession and the home side’s defence was severely tested, especially in the second half when they enjoyed most of the ball.
The Aussies gave the Stormers a torrid time in the set scrums and too many transgressions at the breakdowns also set the Stormers back.
Waratahs flyhalf Kurtley Beale gave the visitors the early ascendancy with a penalty after referee Lyndon Bray ruled the Stormers offside at a ruck in the 2nd minute.
Beale had a chance to stretch the lead in the 5th when Bray again penalized the home side – this time for not scrumming straight. The flyhalf, however, fluffed an entirely kickable attempt.
In the 8th minute the Stormers gave the 45 700 crowd who braved the rain and the cold something to cheer about when a fantastic move led to a try for big wing Sereli Naqelevuki.
It seemed as if the big Fijian wing fell tantalizingly short after sliding about 6 meters on the wet surface, but Television Match Official Shaun Veldsman was brought into action. He ruled it was a good five-pointer.
The try came as a result of great teamwork by the Stormers. Outside centre Gcobani Bobo’s grubber was won back and big lock Andries Bekker hit the advantage line with conviction. From there the ball was swung to the left and Jean de Villiers sent Naqelevuki on his merry way.
The wing was tackled by two defenders but his momentum carried him to the try-line and he dotted the ball down – just short it seemed at first, but in the end the Stormers got just rewards for some sparkling play.
In the 13th the Stormers went offside again and this time Beale made no mistake. The Waratahs then got into their stride and for a while most of the action took place in the Stormers half of the field.
In the 30th minute they strung together 10 phases, but the move came to an abrupt end with a knock-on close to the hosts’ 22m-line.
The Stormers went back into the hut with the score 6-5 and in the knowledge they had to do a lot of hard work in the second stanza to keep the semi-final dream alive.
Wing Wylie Human gave the Stormers the best possible start to the second half when he charged down a kick from Lochlan Turner to score. Grant could not convert (10-6).
Coach Rassie Erasmus made his first tactical substitution in the 50th minute when he replaced Grant with Tony Brown.
In the 52nd minute Bray penalized Human for what he perceived to be a high tackle. The crowd didn’t like the dubious decision at all and made it clear by jeering the ref loudly. Beale missed with his penalty attempt.
Brown stretched the lead in the 64th min when he kicked a penalty goal as the rain came down again in droves (13-6). Lock Adriaan Fondse and loosehead prop Brian Mujati left the field to be replaced by Ross Skeate and Schalk Ferreira.
The Waratahs then came with a massive onslaught on the Stormers try-line and a sustained two-minute attack resulted in a try for fullback Lote Tiquri after the Stormers ran out of defenders in the 68th min.
Beale beautifully converted from far out to draw the teams level at 13-13 and also setting up the game for a nail-biting finish. The Tahs indeed finished with a flurry and the Stormers had to hang on for dear life in the final two minutes to keep the dream alive.
Next week in Johannesburg they have it all to do when they take on the Lions in their final league game.
Vodacom Stormers – Tries: Sireli Naqelevuki, Wylie Human; Penalty: Tony Brown.
Waratahs: Try: Lote Tiquri; Conversion: Kurtley Beale; Penalties: Kurtley Beale (2).