Stormers continue their dominance over the Bulls at Newlands with a narrow win
The Stormers stretched their winning sequence over the Bulls at Newlands to eight matches when they beat their old rivals 24-23 in an entertaining clash on Saturday.
The Bulls dominated territory and possession but only briefly led the match. A late Manie Libbok earned the Bulls a losing bonus point, which could be crucial after the Stormers inexplicably tried to counter-attack from behind their goal-posts in search of a bonus point try.
In the event, they handed their rivals what could be critical log point when the dust settles on the regular season.
The Stormers though are back in the play-off mix and still have four home games to come, while the Bulls have a daunting Australasian tour to come.
The Stormers made most of the running in a helter skelter first half that saw a combined 26 handling errors as both sides looked to play with width, but had little daylight to show for their endeavour.
Despite scoring two first half tries, the Bulls stayed in contact through Handré Pollard’s boot. Super Rugby’s leading point’s scorer notched up three first half penalties – two in the last three minutes of the half – to keep the Bulls only five points behind at the break.
By weathering the best Stormers could muster in the opening exchanges, the Bulls hit the front for the first time three minutes into the second half.
A multiple phase move ended with scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl dotting the ball against the base of the upright for the try that levelled the scores before Pollard’s conversion nudged the Bulls ahead.
Earlier the Stormers ran the Bulls ragged in a clear tactic to up the tempo of the match. It paid some dividends, although yet again the Stormers’ own lack of polish was their worst enemy as they made 18 handling errors in the first half alone.
Scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies also went over for a disallowed try, which has become a common theme for the Cape side this season. In his attempt to dot down a loose ball in the in-goal area, he knocked it on.
However the Stormers also added two legitimate and nicely constructed first half tries for wings Sergeal Petersen and Seabelo Senatla. Jantjies atoned for his error later by scoring the home team’s third try on the hour.
Petersen finished neatly after some good interplay between Siya Kolisi and Kobus van Dyk down the short side for the opening try of the encounter.
Later Senatla, on temporarily for the blood-binned Dillyn Leyds, profited from a deep counter-attack by fullback Damian Willemse. The elusive Willemse collected a wayward punt inside his own 22-metre area and fashioned enough space for Senatla to open his twin turbos and scorch the desperate defence.
The opening half hour was the Stormers’ best period of the match but yet again they failed to finish several half chances they carved out.
Centre Damian de Allende was particularly elusive and his ability to make metres was complimented by some hard running by Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kolisi and Steven Kitshoff.
But the Bulls were belligerent on defence on that period. No 8 Duane Vermeulen, on his return to Newlands after 89 matches in Stormers colours, was a menace at the breakdown. Prop Lizo Gqoboka was also prominent in the loose and he and his pack eventually started winning the tight exchanges after the loose start to the match.
Replacement Stormers flyhalf Josh Stander’s first contribution was to land a penalty that edged the home team ahead by one point before the impressive Jantjies struck.
A wayward clearance from Libbok missed touch and instead found Leyds, who ran it back with interest as he cut through the disjoined Bulls defensive line. Pollard hauled him down metres from the line, but the ever-alert Leyds offloaded to a flying Jantjies, who timed his run to perfection.
That score put the Stormers eight points clear and was enough to ensure their play-off ambitions remain a reality.