Lloyd Burnard – Newlands
Cape Town – A gutsy second half display from the Stormers saw them beat the Blues 30-22 in a brutal Super Rugby clash at Newlands on Friday night.
It is the second time this season that the Stormers have beaten New Zealand opposition.
While the eight-point win looks comfortable on the scoreboard, it was anything but in a game that will be remembered for more incidents off the ball than anything else.
It finished three tries apiece, but the Stormers had to dig deep for this one.
With no specialist flyhalf on the field, the Stormers looked to fullback SP Marais to kick their goals, and he did that from distance early on to put his side 3-0 up and settle any concerns they may have had in that area.
Blues wing Matt Duffie was shown a yellow card for offside after a string of Blues penalties on 14 minutes, and while the Stormers could have taken an easy three points they opted instead to set up a lineout and chase the try.
It proved to be the wrong call as they were met by a resilient Blues defence who stole the ball and cleared their lines.
The big talking point came on 20 minutes when the Blues were given a penalty for a high tackle on the Stormers line.
Blues No 8 Akira Ioane gave Eben Etzebeth a firm shove to the chest, and the Stormers lock retaliated … as he does.
It became a massive scuffle, with Etzebeth and Blues superstar Sonny Bill Williams squaring off as the crowd erupted.
Replays showed that the Stormers lock had raised his hands one too many times, and he was sent to the bin for a 10 minute period that would prove costly.
With the momentum on their side, the Blues looked dangerous with ball-in-hand as they scored two tries in 10 minutes through George Moala and skipper James Parsons – both the result of some nifty passing.
That put the visitors 12-3 up, and at that stage the Blues looked like they might run away with it.
But the Stormers, with a fired up Etzebeth back on the park, had other ideas.
They again turned down an easy three points on the stroke of half time to set up a lineout, but this time they had their reward when Siya Kolisi went crashing over under the posts.
It made it 12-10 to the Blues at the break, and Newlands believed again.
But shortly after the restart the Stormers were dealt a blow when the Blues had their third – Williams offloading to Blake Gibson after a few attacking phases close to the line.
Blues flyhalf Piers Francis was then knocked out cold following a Shaun Treeby high tackle, but the visitors kept up their territorial dominance as the Stormers struggled to threaten on attack.
Then, out of nowhere, the Stormers came to life.
Robbie Fleck’s men spent what seemed like an age camped on the Blues line before they got their second try.
After a string of phases that had the Newlands faithful roaring, the Stormers were eventually awarded a penalty.
Dillyn Leyds got hold of the ball, sprinted to the mark, took the quick tap and dived over the line before anyone could stop him.
After Marais’s conversion, the Stormers were 20-19 up.
The Blues came back strong, but the Stormers were a different team.
Cheslin Kolbe looked to be in for a score down the right touchline, but he was stopped just short.
Duffie, though, then dived on the Stormers wing illegally to be shown his second yellow card and a red, meaning the Blues had to play the last 15 minutes with 14 men.
When substitute Sikhumbuzo Notshe squirmed his way over from close range, the Blues were buried and the Stormers were on the verge of a special win.
Bryn Gatland and Marais then exchanged penalties, and the Stormers were home and dry with a 30-22 win.
Tries: Siya Kolisi, Dillyn Leyds, Sikhumbuzo Notshe
Conversions: SP Marais (3)
Penalties: SP Marais (3)
Tries: George Moala, James Parsons, Blake Gibson
Conversions: Piers Francis (2)
Penalty: Bryn Gatland
15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Dillyn Leyds, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble
Substitutes: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Damian de Allende
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Substitutes: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Michael Collins