Three in a row for Stormers
The Stormers slumped to their third consecutive Super 12 defeat as they went down 37-34 to the Chiefs at Newlands on Saturday evening.
It was the first match this season in which Gert Smal’s side had their supporters on the edge of their seats and obtained a bonus point for scoring four tries, but they ultimately paid the price for a very poor opening 15 minutes in which they conceded 17 points.
The Chiefs played an expansive game from the outset and had the Stormers rattled with their big outside backs.
Giant centre Niva Ta’auso was particularly effective for the New Zealanders as he twice skipped past Stormers counterpart Marius Joubert for first-half tries.
He scored their first after nine minutes and when fullback Sosene Anisi’s 13th minute try was converted, the scoreline already stood at an alarming 17-3, with the Stormers’ only contribution a penalty by Gaffie du Toit.
The Stormers have hardly produced anything to excite their supporters this year, but even in a season of many lows the opening 15 minutes were shocking.
At least one can say that they did not capitulate. They clawed their way back into the game when centre and captain De Wet Barry broke the line well to feed fullback Breyton Paulse. Gaffie du Toit’s conversion ensured that there were only seven points in it.
The Chiefs, however, were unrelenting in their approach and Ta’auso’s second try restored their cushion of two converted tries.
Barry was the man who got the Stormers back in it, finishing off from third phase under the posts after their maul from a lineout had been stopped just short of the line.
The Stormers continued to chip away at the Chiefs’ lead, with the unerring boot of flyhalf Gaffie du Toit reducing the deficit to four points with a penalty.
Chiefs centre David Hill replied in kind, but the Stormers managed to draw level when scrumhalf Bolla Conradie scored the first of his two tries following a succession of drives through the middle.
Suddenly the game was there for the taking, but it just hasn’t been the Stormers’, and in particular Joubert’s, season.
Chiefs’ flyhalf Stephen Donald’s kick—intended to go behind the Stormers’ defensive line—rebounded off the Bok midfielder—and the Chiefs’ pivot snatched the ball to score.
Hill’s conversion made it 34-27.
Once again the Stormers showed character to come back from the setback and it was Conradie who spotted the gap from the back of a ruck after the ball had been taken through several phases.
Du Toit held his nerve and it was 34-34 with 20 minutes to play.
It was riveting stuff and there was to be no repeat of the scenes in both the Crusaders and Blues matches in which spectators left Newlands early.
The decisive score came 10 minutes before the end, with Stormers left wing Gus Theron foolishly executing a spear tackle on Adrian Cashmore. Donald kept his cool to slot the penalty, and try as they might, the Stormers could not break down the Chiefs after that.
On balance, you have to say that the Chiefs deserved to win, with scrumhalf Byron Kelleher, No 8 Steven Bates and Ta’auso all in outstanding form.
Barry, flank Luke Watson and Conradie battled bravely for the Stormers, but even though the team showed enough passion not to leave the field to jeers this time round, this defeat was just another disappointment in a season of many.
Stormers: Tries: Fullback Breyton Paulse, centre De Wet Barry, scrumhalf Bolla Conradie (2). Conversions: Flyhalf Gaffie du Toit (4). Penalties: Du Toit (2).
Chiefs: Tries: Centre Nive Ta’auso (2), fullback Sosene Anisi, flyhalf Stephen Donald. Conversions: Centre David Hill (4). Penalties: Hill (2), replacement flyhalf Stephen Donald. - Sapa