Desperately dire on attack
The Stormers stole a one-point (19-18) win against the Hurricanes in the Super Rugby showdown at Newlands, Cape Town, on Friday.
It was not a game that will be remembered for long, in fact it was a game best forgotten.
Was it not for the drama of the final five minutes, when a Stormers try from a maul gave the home team the one-point lead, this game would have qualified as the most boring of the season.
While the Hurricanes showed flashes of brilliance - which produced two valuable tries just before the half-time break - the Stormers still looked desperately dire on attack and were forced to deal in penalties to keep the scoreboard ticking.
The most productive mode of attack was centre Damian de Allende bashing it up in midfield, till that powerful maul at the end produced the winning score.
The Stormers suffered a late injury blow - with veteran Springbok loose forward Schalk Burger being pulled out after having suffered with a groin strain all week.
From the outset the Hurricanes took on the Stormers up front, with some great pick-'n-driving in the opening stages. But their discipline let them down and a string of penalties halted the early momentum they had gained.
Not that the Stormers were any better - their line-out misfiring in a big way, which meant they did not have as many opportunities to maul as they would have liked.
It was not till the last five minutes that they eventually got a proper maul going and it produced the Stormers' only try.
The scrums were also a mess, although the referee went one-for-you-one-for-them with the penalties in this set piece. Late in the game the Stormers eventually got the upper-hand in this set piece - winning a few extra penalties.
It may have been the damp conditions, but there were also far too many handling errors by both teams. The conditions got much worse after the break, as the drizzle turned into intermittent rain.
The first scoring chance went to the Stormers - two penalties in quick succession, one at the breakdown and the second for illegal tactics at a maul. Demetri Catrakilis made no mistake from 40 metres out - 3-0.
That became 6-0 at the end of the first quarter, following an offside penalty 10 metres short of the line - Catrakilis obliging.
The first try went to the Hurricanes - Julian Savea getting the five-pointer, but Conrad Smith the creative force, exposing the Stormers defence by stepping inside after Jean de Villiers had rushed out of line. The off-load found TJ Perenara, who produced a great dink grubber that saw Savea run onto the ball. Beauden Barrett added the extras as the Hurricanes grabbed the lead in the 34th minute.
Just a few minutes later the Stormers' defence was again cruelly exposed, the final touch a Hadley Parks crossfield kick that found Cory Jane, who collected the bouncing ball and slip over for the try. This time the conversion was wide, but the Hurricanes took a 12-6 lead into he break.
The Stormers again scored first in the second half, a Catrakilis penalty making it 9-12, but an offside penalty against the Stormers allowed Barrett to make it a six-point game (15-9) going into the final quarter. That was followed by a Catrakilis penalty in the 64th minute and a Barrett kick made it a six-point game (18-12) again as the final 10 minutes approached.
It looked like the Stormers were doomed for another defeat, till their scrum exploded into action - producing a penalty that was tired into a line-out. Then, finally, the Stormers showed the mauling ability they had become so famous for and the rest of the pack gave Deon Fourie an armchair ride over the line.
Catrakilis slotted the touchline conversion and the Stormers held on in the face of a powerful Hurricanes surged to claim the 19-16 win.
Man of the match: Kobus van Wyk had a couple of handy runs, although his off-loads did not always find the support player. Damian de Allende did some serious damage with ball in hand - probably his best game yet for the Stormers. Gio Aplon also had a few impressive, jinking runs. TJ Perenara kept the Stormers defenders busy around the fringes and showed great vision. However, our award goes to a member of the losing team. Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith may not have looked as prominent as some of the other players, but he knew exactly when to inject himself into the game and with far greater effect. Now add in his incredible defensive work and you have the game's most valuable player.
For the Stormers:
Pens: Catrakilis 4
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Savea, Jane
Pens: Barrett 2
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Ryno Eksteen.
Hurricanes: 15 Marty Banks, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 John Schwalger, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 James Broadhurst, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 James Marshall.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Marc van Zyl (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)