Stormers back to top form

2011-04-18 00:00

THE Stormers returned to their winning ways, while the Lions, Bulls and Cheetahs again tasted defeat in the ninth round of the Super Rugby competition at the weekend.

The Stormers needed a 79th-minute try by substitute wing Johann Sadie to take them to safety and ensure a 33-19 win over the Lions at Ellis Park.

This victory takes the Cape Town franchise (33) four points clear of the Sharks (29), who had a weekend bye, and the Newlands clash between these two sides in a fortnight (April 30) could decide the battle for top spot in the South African conference.

The Cheetahs somehow contrived to lose 50-47 to the Hurricanes in Bloemfontein on Saturday night. With 97 points, and 11 tries scored in 80 minutes — and with the lead changing 12 times — this was rugby’s version of a hit-and-giggle Twenty20 cricket match.

The Cheetahs seemed to have the game won when they led 47-43 in the last minute and were camped deep in Hurricanes’ territory. Scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, who had earlier scored three tries, broke strongly in the Hurricanes’ quarter but a loose pass was intercepted and the counter-attack ended with lock Jeremy Thrush running half the length of the field to score the winning try on the final hooter.

The real rugby of the weekend was played Down Under by the Reds and Bulls.

The Reds halfbacks, Will Genia and Quade Cooper, mesmerised the Bulls to fashion a 39-30 win in Brisbane. The Bulls battled hard and improved on their limp efforts in defeat against the Crusaders the week before, but the spark and control are missing. The title-holders were outscored by six tries to three as Cooper and company had a field day, playing expansively and ambitiously as the Reds notched up their sixth successive win for the first time in 15 years of Super Rugby.

The bonus point victory also took the Reds to the top of the log, alongside the Crusaders on 35 points. Only two points separate the top four teams with the Blues (34) and Stormers at third and fourth respectively.

Queensland captain James Horwill was delighted to beat the champions.

“The boys really dug deep. To get a bonus point win is massive after coming back from Africa this week.”

The Blues, slick and polished, were rampant against the Waratahs in the first half, scoring their bonus point try inside 26 minutes, and they finally came away with a 31-17 win.

The Stormers appeared to be heading for a comfortable win as they went ahead 10-0 in the opening minutes. But the Lions fought hard, if untidily, and they bothered the Stormers for long periods in the second half. They remained in contention until the closing minute, but were helped by the Stormers, who defended strongly but again lacked composure and accuracy on attack.

The Lions pressed hard in the closing stages in spite of being reduced to 14 men when captain and centre Doppies la Grange was carded for a dangerous tackle.

“We were lucky to get away with a win,” said Stormers captain Schalk Burger. “We had to defend for what seemed like 10 minutes at the end, but we did lead all the way and they were forced to chase the game.”

Lions flank Michael Rhodes will appear in front of a Sanzar hearing today after being cited for a dangerous tackle on Stormers fullback Conrad Jantjes in the first half of the match.

In a rare game played on a Sunday, the Western Force recorded their second win of the season when they upset the Brumbies 27-19 in Canberra yesterday.

SCORES AND SCORERS ON SATURDAY

Blues 31 (John Afoa, Tevita Meilau, Jared Payne, Rene Ranger, Alby Mathewson tries; Luke McAlister 3 conversions), Waratahs 17 (Daniel Halangahu, Drew Mitchell, Ryan Cross tries; Kurtley Beale conversion). HT: 31-7.

Reds 39 (Luke Morahan 2, Quade Cooper, James Horwill, Digby Ioane, Radike Samo tries; Cooper 3 cons, dropped goal), Bulls 30 (Bjorn Basson 2, Danie Rossouw tries; Morne Steyn 3 conversions, 3 penalties). HT: 17-13.

Stormers 33 (Danie Poolman, Jacque Fourie, Johan Sadie tries; Lionel Cronje 2 conversions, 3 penalties, Dewaldt Duvenage conversion, Gary van Aswegan penalty), Lions 19 (Warren Whiteley try; Burton Francis 3 penalties, conversion, drop goal). HT: 23-13.

Hurricanes 50 (Hosea Gear 2, Jack Lam, Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Jeremy Thrush tries; Dan Kirkpatrick 3 conversions, 4 penalties, Beauden Barrett conversion), Cheetahs 47 (Sarel Pretorius 3, Riaan Smit 2 tries; Sias Ebersohn 5 conversions, 2 penalties, 2 drop goals). HT: 30-33.

Yesterday:

Brumbies 19 (Matt Giteau Try; conversion, 4 penalties). Western Force 27 (David Smith 2, James O’Connor tries. O’Connor 2 conversions, two penalties. Willie Ripia conversion). HT: 10-7)

Played Friday:

Crusaders 34 Chiefs 16

Highlanders 40 Rebels 18

Bye: Sharks

THIS WEEKEND’S FIXTURES(HOME TEAM FIRST, SA TIMES):

Friday

Blues v Rebels 9.35 am

Saturday

Crusaders v Highlanders 9.35 am

Reds v Waratahs 11.40 am

Force v Bulls 2.05 pm

Sharks v Hurricanes 5.05 pm

Lions v Chiefs 7.10pm

Byes: Brumbies, Cheetahs, Stormers

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