Cape Town - A hat-trick inside 25 minutes from Brumbies winger Joe Tomane left the Stormers with too much to do as the South African conference champions crashed out of the Super Rugby playoffs at Newlands on Saturday.
Their second half performance was much-improved, but in the end coach Allister Coetzee saw his side outplayed in most departments as they went down 39-19 in his final match in charge of the franchise.
The Stormers were dealt a massive blow before kick-off when Schalk Burger was ruled out with a groin strain. Michael Rhodes was elevated to the starting line-up while Sikhumbuzo Notshe was promoted to the bench, but the loss of the physical Burger rang alarm bells for a Stormers side already without captain and influential number eight Duane Vermeulen.
The hosts were a try down after just four minutes. After some well-structured phase play Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White stabbed the ball through the Stormers defence where Tomane was first to pounce – dotting down in the left corner to put the Australians 5-0 up.
Coetzee’s men hit back well, showing good physicality at the breakdown as they strung together some dangerous attacks. They were rewarded on 14 minutes when flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis put his side on the board from straight in front after the Brumbies had given away a penalty on the ground.
But just a minute later the task at hand became immense for the Stormers when an overlap down the left saw Tomane dive in for his second try.
Brumbies flyhalf Christian Lealiifano, in his 100th Super Rugby game, again missed the conversion and the Stormers were lucky to be just 10-3 behind.
Tomane’s hat-trick was completed inside 25 minutes – the Brumbies scrumming the Stormers off their own ball before the left winger found himself with space on the blind side. He rounded a stagnant Stormers defence to score and Lealiifano had no problems this time, making it 17-3.
Nizaam Carr, meanwhile, was withdrawn for Sikhumbuzo Notshe after suffering what appeared to be a concussion as it became clear that the Stormers were in for a long evening.
Catrakilis narrowed the gap in the 34th minute with a well struck penalty from about 40 metres out as the Stormers looked to recuperate.
But any hopes of a comeback received a major setback on the stroke of half time when Scott Sio barged over from close range after the Stormers had lost their own lineout ball. That made it 24-6 at the break and the writing was on the wall.
Newlands was finally given reason to celebrate just five minutes after the restart when a wayward Robbie Coleman pass was intercepted by Cheslin Kolbe – the Stormers fullback running 75 metres to score under the posts and make it 24-13.
That sparked some life into the supporters and their side before Catrakilis and Lealiifano exchanged penalties to make it 27-16 with half an hour to play. The Stormers flyhalf then slotted his fourth penalty of the night to make it 27-19 as the final 20 minutes looked set to prove a nail-biting finish.
But the final breath was knocked out of the Stormers when Ita Vaea scored the Brumbies’ fifth try of the night – Lealiifano adding the extra two to make it 34-19 as the inevitability of the result grew with each passing minute.
There was a late red card for Brumbies right winger Henry Speight for his off-the-ball handling of Juan de Jongh, but by that stage it was too late and the Stormers could do nothing to change the outcome of the match.
A late try from Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg was the final nail in the coffin as the curtain came down on a night to forget for the Stormers.
Tries: Cheslin Kolbe 44'
Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis 45'
Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis 3', 32', 48', 59'
Tries: Joe Tomane 5', 14', 25', Ita Vaea 40', 62', Jesse Mogg 79'
Conversions: Christian Lealiifano 26', 40', 63'
Penalties: Christian Lealiifano 49'