Stormers pop up to the top

2012-05-21 00:00

THE Stormers leapfrogged the Bulls into first place on the Super Rugby log while the Sharks, grabbing five log points in Bloemfontein, continued to close in on their South African rivals.

While the Bulls lost ground, and their game to the Highlanders in Dunedin, the Stormers edged the Waratahs 19-13 in Cape Town to take the lead at the top of the log.

The Sharks continued their late season flourish to down the Cheetahs 34-20 for their second successive bonus point win. They are now within six points of the Bulls and eight of the Stormers and face both in Durban in the weeks ahead.

The Rebels gained a narrow 32-31 win over the Force in Perth in yesterday’s only game. The Force took the lead in the 74th minute through a Ben Seymour penalty, but Kurtley Beale calmly slotted a pressure penalty in the 77th minute to snatch the win for the Rebels.

The Stormers lead the standings on points difference from the Chiefs, who had a bye this weekend, while the Bulls are two points back after going down 16-11 to the Highlanders in a brutal game in Dunedin.

“I think we made too many mistakes and the Highlanders capitalised on that,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies said. “They played well and credit to them for the win.”

The Lions started strongly against the Reds in Brisbane before fading away and losing 34-20.

Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper, returning after months on the sidelines, showed encouraging form for the Reds but it was another bad day for the struggling Lions.

The seven-time Super Rugby champion Crusaders ran in nine tries to crush the woeful Blues 59-12 to keep in touch with the Chiefs in the New Zealand conference.

The Stormers should have beaten the Waratahs comfortably at Newlands but, for a second week in a row, they lost intensity after the break.

“It was a tough game of rugby,” Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said later. “I know a lot of people say we have a bit of a slump in the second half but we must give the players credit for grinding out wins.”

The Sharks made their intentions clear from the start of their game in Bloemfontein, taking the ball through a dozen phases from the kick-off before wing JP Pietersen scored the first of four tries

It was the Sharks’ most emphatic showing of the season and it was only when the outstanding Bismarck du Plessis was harshly yellow-carded for not using his arms in a tackle (the hooker used only one) that they lost their structure and composure. Once he returned the Sharks again played with authority with replacement centre Meyer Bosman scoring the bonus point try in the closing 10 minutes to seal the four tries to one win.

The Sharks played hard, direct rugby and it was only their lapses in discipline — heavily punished by referee Jonathan Kaplan in the first half — and a couple of wayward passes that spoilt an otherwise impressive display.

Flyhalf Frederic Michalak, who replaced Pat Lambie (flu and concussion), had a productive night, scoring 19 points, slotting six of seven goal attempts and scoring an opportunistic try as he chased a speculative kick by fullback Riaan Viljoen.

The Sharks now face the log-leading Stormers in Durban on Saturday night and they appear to be in excellent shape for the big clash of the season.

SCORES AND SCORERS (HOME TEAM FIRST)

Yesterday

Force 31 (15) – Tries: Napolioni Nalaga, Ben McCalman, Alfie Mafi. Conversions: David Harvey (2). Penalties: Harvey, Brett Sheehan, Ben Seymour (2) . Rebels 32 (26) - Tries: Cadeyrn Neville (2), Gareth Delve, Cooper Vuna. Conversions: Kurtley Beale (3). Penalties: Beale (2)

Saturday

Cheetahs 20 (14) - Tries: Adriaan Strauss. Penalties: Riaan Smit (3), Sias Ebersohn (2). Sharks 34 (21) – Tries: JP Pietersen, Frederic Michalak, Lwazi Mvovo, Meyer Bosman. Conversions: Michalak (4). Penalties: Michalak (2)

Stormers 19 (16) – Tries: Joe Pietersen, Tiaan Liebenberg. Penalties: Pietersen, Peter Grant (2). Waratahs 13 (3) – Tries: Rob Horne. Conversions: Brendan McKibbin. Penalties: McKibbin (2)

Highlanders 16 (3) – Tries: Jarrad Hoeata. Conversions: Mike Delany. Penalties: Delany (3). Bulls 11 (6). Tries: Willie Wepener. Penalties: Morne Steyn (2)

Reds 34 (13) – Tries: Liam Gill, Saia Faingaa, Chris F’sautia, Will Genia. Conversions: Mike Harris (4). Penalties: Harris (3). Lions 20 (6) - Tries: Martin Bezuidenhout, Jaco Kriel. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2).Penalties: Janjties (2).

Crusaders 59 (31) – Tries: Matt Todd, Adam Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Luke Romano, Corey Flynn (2), Andy Ellis, Zac Guildford, Tom Marshall. Conversions: Dan Carter (6), Tyler Bleyendaal. Blues 12 (0)- Tries: Lachie Munro (2). Conversions: Gareth Anscombe

Played Friday:

Hurricanes 25 Brumbies 37.

Bye: Chiefs

THIS WEEKEND’S FIXTURES (HOME TEAM FIRST)

Friday: 8.35 am Chiefs vs Bulls

Saturday: 7.30 am Hurricanes vs Rebels

9.35 am Blues vs Highlanders

11.40 am Brumbies vs Reds

1.40 pm Force vs Lions

5.05 pm Cheetahs vs Waraths

7.10 pm Sharks vs Stormers.

Bye: Crusaders

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