The Stormers finally conceded points in a Super Rugby fixture this year, but the result was reassuringly familiar as they pipped a spirited Lions team in a pulsating derby at Ellis Park yesterday.
John Dobson’s men, who bossed the set piece but struggled all day with their attack – frequently coughing up possession and struggling to string together a few passes – needed an 82nd-minute try by Ruhan Nel to grab victory in a game that looked like it would be their first defeat of the season.
In a move in which they suddenly found their fluency, courtesy of two speedy thrusts by winger Seabelo Senatla, with replacement fly half Jean-Luc du Plessis and winger Sergeal Petersen keeping the ball alive through linking play and safely gathering a dipping pass, respectively, the Stormers secured their third successive win of the new season to move to second on points difference on the overall log.
The result would have been a dagger to the heart of Lions captain Elton Jantjies, whose fingerprints were all over the game thanks to scoring half of his team’s points through a try, two penalties and two conversions, and a kick-pass assist for one of the hosts’ tries in a vain man-of-the-match performance.
Having scored the first points in the game, and the first against the Stormers, the Lions – whose ball-retention and intensity meant they had the better of the initial proceedings – then gave it away with mistakes that gave the visitors a leg up to the tune of two tries.
After a solid start in the line-outs, with Marvin Orie the designated taker in all of them, they conceded the first try of the match the first time they didn’t throw to the lock forward, an overthrow that found hooker Scarra Ntubeni and was recycled for Juarno Augustus to barge over. Playing in his first start of the season after yet another lengthy injury lay-off, Augustus – aptly nicknamed Trokkie because he’s built and runs like a dump truck – was ballast personified with one meaningful carry after another.
The hosts’ second gift to the visitors was scrum half Morné van den Berg’s pass finding his opposite number Godlen Masimla, the latter stretching his legs from deep inside his half to score in the 19th minute.
The Lions’ solid scrum – a marked difference from last week – contesting at the breakdown, tempo and giving as good as they got in the collisions, was rewarded with two tries of their own.
The first was scored by fullback Andries Coetzee, a try that originated from Stormers centre Jamie Roberts needlessly dropping a restart to Augustus’ try, and the second by winger Courtnall Skosan off a Jantjies kick-pass on the half-hour mark.
With the scores evenly poised, the Stormers – with help from the unrelenting Steven Kitshoff – finally located the reverse gear in the hosts’ scrum in the last five minutes of the first half to the tune of two scrum penalties.
Winger Petersen’s early second-half try was off the back of that momentum and, with the score on 26-15, it seemed as though the game was over as a contest.
But the Lions’ impact players Hacjivah Dayimani, Dillon Smit and the returning Willem Alberts gave them the impetus they needed off the bench, providing speed, lightning-quick service and go-forward, respectively.
Jantjies scored a wonderful individual try, centre Dan Kriel a magnificent team effort in the 69th and 73rd minute, respectively, and suddenly the visitors were staring down the barrel of a 30-26 scoreline with three minutes left.
But, at long last, they found their attacking mojo, and to devastating effect. – City Press correspondent
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