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Stormers hang on at Newlands

Sat, 03 May 2014 14:53
Stormers-v-highlanders
Eight-try thriller
Quote-end

The Stormers hung on for a much-needed win, edging the Highlanders 29-28 in their Super Rugby encounter on Saturday.

The game was a mixed bag of entertaining moments and desperate defence, but mostly it gave the sparse Newlands crowd a rare win to celebrate.

For the Highlanders, the two bonus points they earned - one for four tries and another for losing by seven points or less - kept them in touch with the leading pack and well within the play-off race.

There were two yellow cards in the game - one to each team - but the Stormers' transgression was far more expensive.

In the period that Siyabonga Ntubeni was in the sin bin, the Highlanders scored 14 points. In return, the Highlanders conceded just three points while Brayden Mitchell was binned.

However, the Highlanders came at a more crucial time and the binning handed the momentum back to the Stormers when it mattered most.

It was a game in which both teams were willing to play ball-in-hand rugby, although the execution often let them down.

The set pieces were also not the most accurate - the Stormers' scrum under pressure and the Highlanders' line-outs rather rickety.

The biggest concern for the Stormers at the half-time break would have been that they dominated possession and territory, playing with the ball for 70 percent of the time, but only held a slender five-point lead at the break.

The Stormers made an early statement of intent - captain Jean de Villiers taking a quick tap from a penalty right in front and a few phases later prop Frans Malherbe flopped over from close range. Kurt Coleman added the extras - 7-0 after just four minutes.

However, the Highlanders' riposte was swifts an devastating - scrumhalf  Aaron Swift breaking around a ruck, chipping the ball ahead and collecting to put the visitors on the board. Lima Sopoaga added the extras to make it seven-all after just eight minutes.

Just on the 15-minute mark new flyhalf Kurt Coleman had a shot from right in front, but succeeded only to hit the upright in what was a schoolboy error.

After 10 minutes of mundane, error-riddle play, the game suddenly burst back into life. And a sublime offload by Schalk Burger put prop Frans Malherbe over for his second try. Coleman's conversion made it 14-7 on the half-hour mark.

The next try came from a Highlanders mistake, an overthrow at a line-out, which the Stormers quickly swung wide to the right where Juan de Jongh stroll through a huge hole, before putting Damian de Allende over.  Coleman couldn't add the extras, but at 19-7 the Stormers were looking good.

However, from the restart, the Highlanders regathered the ball  and after a few phases Ben Smith found a hole and once the Highlanders were on the front foot there was non stopping them. The move was complete by two sublime foot-passes - first a grubber by Sopoaga and then by Ben Smith, the latter a sublime little touch for Trent Renata to run unto. Sopoaga's conversion bounced in off the upright.

The Stormers hung onto that 19-14 lead going into the half-time break.

It took the home team less than 10 minutes to get their bonus-point try - rookie prop Oliver Kebble worming his way over from a metre out. The conversion made it 26-14.

Minutes later the Stormers were reduced to 14 men, Siyabonga Ntubeni going to the sin bin for cynically killing the ball a metre from his line.

And a man down - flank Schalk Burger making way for hooker Deon Fourie - the Highlanders produced a simple move in which an Aaron Smith grubber was collected by Ben Smith. The Renata conversion made it a five-point game - 21-26.

That was followed by another try shortly afterwards, Malakai Fekitoa stepping between two Stormers defenders to get the Highlanders' bonus-point try. Renata gave the visitors the lead for the first time when he added the conversion - 28-26 with a quarter of the match remaining.

The Stormers were hardly back to their full quote and the Highlanders were reduced to 14 men - replacement hooker Brayden Mitchell sent to the bin for a spear tackle.

Peter Grant, on for Coleman, slotted the penalty to regain the lead for the Stormers - 29-28 with just under 15 minutes remaining.

And once the Stormers had their noses in front, they shut up shop - gone was any notion of an expansive approach and they brought out their famed defence to hang on for a much-needed win.

Man of the match: Malakai Fekitoa was a menace on attack, while Nasi Manu was the most productive the Highlanders' forwards. Ben Smith showed just how dangerous he can be with ball in hand, while Aaron Smith also asked questions of the Stormers' defence. Duane Vermeulen, Nizaam Carr and Michael Rhodes were all impressive in the tight exchanges. However, our award goes to Stormers flank Schalk Burger, who showed his has not lost his desire for the game, with his workrate and a sublime off-load for Prop Frans Malherbe's second try among his highlights.

The scorers:

For the Stormers:
Tries:
Malherbe 2, De Allende, Kebble
Cons: Coleman 3
Pen: Grant

For the Highlanders:
Tries:
A Smith, Renata, B Smith, Fekitoa
Cons: Sopoaga 2, Renata 2

Yellow cards: Siyabonga Ntubeni (Stormers, 53 - professional foul, cynically killing the ball), Brayden Mitchell (Highlanders, 66 - foul play, spear tackle)

Teams:

Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Kobus van Wyk, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Trent Renata, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 John Hardie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Jason Emery, 23 Phil Burleigh.

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)

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