United Rugby Championship

Gutsy Stormers break their curse, claim URC title after fairy tale season

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Evan Roos and Deon Fourie were prominent. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
Evan Roos and Deon Fourie were prominent. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

The curse is broken.

For the best part of a decade the Stormers were masters of racking up inconsequential silverware and accolades in Super Rugby, winning conferences and shields before imploding in the knockouts when the stakes were at their highest.

But on a damp Saturday evening in front of a boisterous, capacity crowd of 31 000 at the Cape Town Stadium, John Dobson's troops showed that they had turned a new leaf in South African rugby's new chapter in Europe, claiming the first United Rugby Championship (URC) title on offer by virtue of 18-13 win over the Bulls.

AS IT HAPPENED | Stormers 18-13 Bulls

Some might argue that the Stormers continued their season-long habit of pulling games out of the fire - particularly taking into consideration that they were nowhere in the first 30 minutes of this match - but that would be doing a gutsy second half showing an injustice.

Foiled initially by a Bulls combination that dominated territory, the Stormers held the upper hand in the collisions and consequently created more opportunities. The hosts also took heart from a subtle switch in momentum in the final 10 minutes of the opening half.

It came from a punchy Deon Fourie run that suddenly found a lot more purpose after blindsider Hacjivah Dayimani fired a bullet-like pass to set the backline on their way.

Fullback Warrick Gelant lost the ball in contact, but the die was cast.

Shortly afterwards, flyhalf Manie Libbok got the Stormers on the board with a penalty after a nervy miss from a relatively easy angle a few moments earlier.

That still meant a 7-3 deficit at half-time though they could be buoyed by staying in contention when they probably shouldn't have been.

In fact, even Bulls pivot Chris Smith's successful three-pointer three minutes into the second half, which extended the visitors' lead to 10-3, should've eroded the Stormers' small gains.

Instead, they were clumsy at the resulting restart with wing Madosh Tambwe and fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse getting into a mix-up that saw the hosts gain a 5m attacking scrum.

That was all it required for No 8 Evan Roos, the hotshot of this season's entire tournament, to go on a trademark powerful run that saw him stretch over.

Rendered increasingly anxious, the Bulls allowed the Stormers to engage more adventurously in broken play - even trying to do so themselves - but found the other foot on the pedal.

The biggest expression of that was centre Cornal Hendricks' yellow card for a high hit on his opposite number Ruhan Nel's shoulder and it also proved very costly as replacement hooker Andre-Hugo Venter was at the back of a resulting attacking maul to dot down.

Despite ceding some momentum to the Bulls later on, the Stormers still managed to exploit their opponents' errors, Libbok notably sealing the deal with a snap drop-goal after Bulls substitute halfback Embrose Papier first knocked a high ball and then missed another when trying to stop a bouncing ball with his boot.

For the Bulls, this was a strange outing.

They started the match brilliantly when centre Harold Vorster scored in the second minute following a key carry from hooker Johan Grobbelaar off a fractured maul.

But they then lost their accuracy as they were thwarted by some determined defence - wing Seabelo Senatla thrice stopped promising moves in their tracks with either robust hits or perfectly-timed interceptions - and the wiles of veteran flanker Fourie at the breakdown, who deserved his Man of the Match award for bustling perseverance, even though he was kept on a long leash by referee Andrew Brace. 

Scorers:

Stormers - (3) 18

Tries: Evan Roos, Andre-Hugo Venter

Conversion: Manie Libbok

Penalty: Libbok

Drop goal: Libbok

Bulls - (7) 13

Try: Harold Vorster

Conversion: Chris Smith

Penalties: Smith (2)


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