The Vodacom Stormers on Saturday kept the dream of a Super 14 semi-final berth alive by beating the Hurricanes 20-12 in a tense and exciting encounter at Newlands.
The home team led 10-0 at halftime. They now face the Highlanders at Newlands on Saturday and must have a good chance to make further progress up the ladder. The Bulls annihilated the Highlanders at Loftus on Saturday and the Kiwi’s confidence cannot be too high after such a trashing.
The game at Newlands was action-packed match right from the word go with the Stormers having the early attacking ascendancy. In the 7th min the home team had a gilt-edged chance to score from a scrum 5m out, but Luke Watson was tackled an lost the ball forward when he opted for the blindside.
In the 12th Hurricanes scrumhalf Piri Weepu came close to scoring the first try of the match after a kick and chase involving Stormers hooker Schalk Brits. Referee James Leckie however ruled that the All Black knocked the ball forward before gathering it and crossing the try-line.
The Stormers suffered a blow when tighthead prop JD Moller had to leave the field with what looked like a shoulder injury. Brok Harris came on, resulting in a move to the tighthead for Brian Mujati.
In the 21st minute Hurricanes centre Ma’a Nonu took his opposite number Jean de Villiers out without the ball, but Leckie did nothing about it and left the crowd fuming about a possible three points, as the offence happened in a kickable position for Peter Grant.
The Stormers suffered another setback in the 22nd minute when star wing Tonderai Chavhanga was forced off the field with a leg injury. Gio Aplon replaced him at right wing.
The home team, however, took the lead a minute later via a penalty goal from Grant.
In the 28th minute the Hurricanes threatened with wing Hosea Gear going for the corner flag, but a try-saving tackle from the ever-present Schalk Burger saved the moment for the Stormers
In the 32nd minute the Stormers were over the try-line via Aplon, but the referee ruled there was a knock-on and gave the Stormers a free kick. The Stormers drove over the try-line again, but the ref ruled the ball was held up and gave them a penalty.
Grant kicked it out for the lineout 5 m out and Bekker took to set up the rolling maul again. After about the tenth ruck lock Bekker managed to just squeeze the ball over the try-line. Grant converted, much to the jubilation of the home crowd.
It didn’t take the Stormers too long after the restart to stretch the lead to 13-0, courtesy of a Grant penalty from the 22m. The Hurricanes were penalized in the 40th minute for a transgression in the ruck after Mujati strongly took the ball into enemy territory.
The 43rd minute saw All Black flank Jerry Collins exiting the field, to be replaced by Scott Waldrom.
The Hurricanes then came with a sustained onslaught on the Stormers line in which they received two penalties, but a brave defensive effort from the home side saw the effort come a cropper after 9 minutes with a turnover and kick from Enrico Januarie that gave the Stormers some breathing space.
Then came the moment of the mach. The Stormers poached a Hurricanes lineout ball and tried to attack from close to their try-line. The ball was spun wide to Naqelevuki, who kicked ahead.
No 8 Luke Watson retrieved before offloading to Bekker and he gave the ball to Watson who passed the ball into the hands of a charging Schalk Brits. The hooker’s impeccable running line split open a defence that already was in tatters. What a try! Grant converted to make the score 20-0.
The Hurricanes hit back with a try by wing Hosea Gear that was converted by Jimmy Gopperth in the 56th (20-7).
Two minutes later Gopperth failed with an easy penalty attempt, but that miss seemed to have spurred his team-mates on because they conjured up a concerted onslaught again which resulted in a Conrad Smith try in the 64th minute. Gopperth’s kicking boot deserted him again (20-12).
In the 65th minute coach Rassie Eramus sent on Robbie Diack and Tony Brown for respectively Adriaan Fondse and Grant. A minute later Brian Mujati cried off what seemed like a leg injury, with Tiaan Liebenberg replacing him.
With the Stormers without one specialist prop the scrums from there on were uncontested.
The last few minutes were tense and nail-biting moments for the home supporters as the Kiwi’s tried their best to salvage the situation. The Stormers at times had to scramble to keep the Hurricanes out and the final whistle came as a welcome relief to the home supporters, who got the result they were hoping for.
Vodacom Stormers – Tries: Andries Bekker, Schalk Brits; Conversions: Peter Grant (2); Penalties: Peter Grant (2).
Hurricanes – Tries: Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith; Conversion: Jimmy Gopperth.