The Vodacom Stormers redeemed themselves when they beat the Hurricanes 30-17 in Palmerston North on Saturday. The halftime score was 13-10 in favour of the Stormers.
The Cape Vodacom Super 14 franchise answered their detractors in the best possible way by putting up their best performance of the season and earning a bonus point for four tries.
Few people gave them a chance to beat the high-flying Hurricanes in their backyard, but the Stormers played with passion and determination to show they have what it takes to be successful in this tough competition.
The Stormers pack held their own and it was a good team effort, but it was the midfield axis of flyhalf Peter Grant and midfield pairing of De Wet Barry and Jean de Villiers who stood out. Grant took the ball up relentlessly to the gain line and defended his channel vigorously.
Barry’s powerful runs and his ability to get the ball away to a mate created problems for the defenders, while De Villiers was back to his sublime best on attack.
Captain Luke Watson – who had a good game too in tandem with Schalk Burger – elected to play with a strong breeze behind him in the first half and the Stormers took advantage of that during the 20 minutes or so, but allowed the Hurricanes to come back in the second stanza of the first half.
After halftime the Stormers were more composed again and forced the Hurricanes to make a handful of unforced errors.
Flyhalf Peter Grant gave the Stormers the perfect start when he slotted a 50m penalty kick in the 2nd minute after the Hurricanes failed to release the ball on the ground.
Centre Jean de Villiers – who else? – added five points when he intercepted a pass from Hurricanes captain Paul Tito and ran 35m to score under the poles. Grant converted to make the lead 10-0.
The Stormers were forced to make a change as early as the 7th minute when Brock Harris left the field in clear discomfort. Springbok Eddie Andrews replaced him at tighthead prop.
The home team had their first opportunity to get the scoreboard rolling in the 14th minute after offside play by the Stormers. Flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth failed with the reasonably easy attempt at poles though.
The Hurricanes made a change when the injured Ma’a Nonu left the field and All Black start Conrad Smith replaced him.
Tito was penalized for incorrect entry in a ruck and Grant didn’t make a mistake (13-0).
It was the home team who created a beautiful backline movement – with a lovely inside pass under pressure from Smith – to score their first try in the 28th minute. Wing David Smith finished the movement for his first Super 14 try.
Gopperth converted to make the score 13-7. Five minutes later Stormers flank Burger was rather unfortunate to be penalized in a ruck after turning the ball carrier and fighting for the ball. Gopperth made the deficit only 3 points by succeeding with the penalty attempt.
When the teams returned after halftime Corne Uys was as left wing in pleace of Gio Aplon, who moved to fullback in place of the injured Brent Russell.
In the 43rd minute Barry carved defence open with a great run, but De Villiers – with Uys begging for the ball and the try-line wide open – decided to go for glory himself and was smothered in a tackle centimeters from the line.
The Stormers got a penalty though and tried to muscle their way over. That resulted in another penalty and this time they opted for the lineout and the drive. They were held out, but from the resultant scrum No 8 Justin Melck scored a pushover try – to the great delight of the Stormers pack.
Grant couldn’t convert, but the Stormers could breathe a bit easier with the score at 18-10.
The Stormers attacked strongly in the 60th minute and Watson – seeing the defence rushing up – cleverly cross-kicked for Gerrie Britz to collect and beautifully pass inside for Uys to finish off. Grant failed with the conversion and the Stormers could smell their first victory on tour at 23-10.
An intercept try in the 65th minute by wing Breyton Paulse hit the final nail in the Hurricanes coffin and sparked great celebrations on the Stormers bench.
Fullback Corey Janes scored a late try for the home team and Blair Stewart converted, but with only a minute left on the clock the Stormers were already celebrating a well deserved win.
Hurricanes – Tries: David Smith, Corey Jane; Conversions: Jimmy Gopperth (1), Blair Stewart (1); Penalties: Jimmy Gopperth (1).
Vodacom Stormers – Tries: Jean de Villiers, Justin Melck, Corné Uys, Breyton Paulse; Conversions: Peter Grant (2);Penalties: Peter Grant (2).