Stormers find groove to knock over table-topping Leinster in front of rocking Cape Town crowd

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Damian Willemse of the Stormers (Gallo)
Damian Willemse of the Stormers (Gallo)

It was easily the biggest home crowd the Stormers have pulled this United Rugby Championship season, and why wouldn't it be? 

This, after all, was a top of the table clash against between the form side of the competition - the hosts - and one of the giants of European rugby in their Irish visitors from Leinster. 

AS IT HAPPENED | Stormers 21-13 Leinster

The looks on the faces of young children, awe-struck at being that close to their monstrous heroes, was a reminder of the magic that accompanies sizeable, passionate match-day crowds. 

That energy was palpable in the minutes leading up to kick off, and Cape Town Stadium erupted when the high-flying Stormers, led by Steven Kitshoff, stomped out onto the lush green turf.

The fans that came out were rewarded with a spirited second-half showing from the Stormers, who bounced back from a poor first 40 minutes to secure a 20-13 win. 

Leinster stay top of the log on 61 points, but Munster, the Sharks and the Stormers are all tied on 56 points and in a scrap for second place and semi-final home ground advantage with one round of fixtures remaining.

What it does mean, though, is that South African teams are now within grasp of hosting two quarter-finals. 

It wasn't always an easy game to watch, particularly in the first half, but this is very much a case of "job done" for the Stormers, who continue to finish games stronger than their opposition. 

It was almost the perfect start for the hosts, who thought they had scored inside the opening 40 seconds when Warrick Gelant put Ruhan Nel through to further spark the already fired up crowd. 

A TMO referral, however, revealed an obstruction in the build-up to the try, and the score was chalked off. 

In truth, that nearly moment was as good as it got for the Stormers in the first half in what quickly became an error-ridden, scrappy battle of the boot.

The Stormers did have their opportunities, but they were nowhere near clinical enough to make it count, and two Ciaran Frawley penalties to one from Manie Libbok gave Leinster a 6-3 lead going into a half time. 

The look on Kitshoff's face as he led his charges off the field said it all, and a subtle shake of the head before entering the tunnel further summed up the state of affairs. 

As they have done so many times this season already, however, the Stormers got better as the match progressed and their second-half showing in no way resembled their first. 

Like the streaker who ran the length of the field shortly before the restart, much to the delight of the crowd, the Stormers were fast out of the block and hit the front when Gelant finished off a move down the right. 

The Stormers had their maul working and had sucked in the Leinster defence, who also lost a player to a yellow card, manufacturing the space for their backline to have a go. 

Libbok missed the conversion, but the hosts were 8-6 ahead. 

Seabelo Senatla then came within inches of scoring but had a foot in touch, but the Blitzboks legend would have his moment soon after Libbok had sparked a counter-attack. 

Libbok, again, was not accurate from wide right but at 13-6, the Stormers had a little breathing room. 

It did not last long. 

Leinster, enjoying a rare trip into the Stormers 22, kept it tight and used their forwards to barge over from close range, and when Frawley added the extras, the scores were tied at 13-13 heading into the last 20 minutes. 

A moment of madness from Evan Roos then cost the Stormers a try-scoring opportunity when he was penalised for an incident off the ball, but it didn't hurt the home side as they were soon back in possession and on the scoreboard with their third try. 

Again, it was the rolling maul that did the damage, and this time referee Craig Evans awarded a penalty try as the Leinster defence crumbled. 

20-13 up, the Stormers were in touching distance bonus point try, but it was not to be.


Stormers 20 (3)

Tries: Warrick Gelant, Seabelo Senatla, Penalty Try

Penalty: Manie Libbok

Leinster 13 (6)

Try: Edward Byrne

Conversion: Harry Byrne

Penalties: Ciaran Frawley (2)

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