United Rugby Championship

Stormers hold off ferocious Ulster fightback to win URC thriller

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Stormers wing Leolin Zas on the charge against Ulster at Cape Town Stadium. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
Stormers wing Leolin Zas on the charge against Ulster at Cape Town Stadium. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
  • The Stomers edged Irish giants Ulster 23-20 in their URC clash in Cape Town on Saturday.
  • The home side led 14-0 early in the game but had to fend off a gallant Ulster fightback.
  • Ulster dominated possession and territory but struggled to crack a resolute Stormers defence.

The Stormers held on for a thrilling United Rugby Championship victory over Irish outfit Ulster at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.

The Stormers won a nail-biting encounter 23-20, after leading 20-13 at half-time.

The Cape side had led 14-0 inside the first 10 minutes, but in the end had to hang on for dear life as Ulster launched several attacking forays onto their tryline.

Ulster enjoyed 63% possession and 67% territory but the Stormers displayed some heroic defence to claim a vital scalp.

The Stormers made a whopping 125 tackles (missed 15), while Ulster made only 53 (missed 6).

AS IT HAPPENED | Stormers v Ulster

The hosts were fast out the blocks and scored two eye-catching tries in the opening 10 minutes.

Scrumhalf Paul de Wet try crossed in the third minute. The move started with some magical running by the Stormers backs from inside their own half, with Leolin Zas and Warrick Gelant sublime in putting De Wet away.

Winger Zas then scored a try in the seventh minute, rounding off another great team effort.

Ulster scored their first try in the 22nd minute when tighthead prop Marty Moore barged over after a concerted period of attack.

The Stormers soon stretched their lead by 10 points (17-7) when flyhalf Manie Libbok converted an easy penalty that was won on the ground by industrious flanker Deon Fourie.

A couple of minutes later, however, Fourie was pinged in front of his own posts which allowed Ulster scrumhalf John Cooney to reduce the deficit to 17-10.

Just before the break, Ulster won a scrum penalty in range which allowed Cooney to close the gap to four points (17-13).

But the Stormers got a kicking penalty on the verge of half-time and Libbok made no mistake from about 40m out, putting the home side 20-13 ahead.

Ulster started the second stanza on the front-foot, launching wave after wave of attack but the Stormers defence proved resolute.

The Stormers scored the first points in the second half when Libbok succeeded with a long-range penalty in the 55th minute.

It put them 23-13 up as both teams brought on a host of replacements.

But Ulster hit right back when powerful inside centre Stuart McCloskey barged through the Stormers defence to score under the posts.

Cooney's conversion made it a three-point game (23-20) heading into the final quarter.

The momentum was now with Ulster and they got another opportunity deep in Stormers territory when Stormers replacement loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani was penalised for a high tackle.

The Stormers, though, defended well and forced a turnover off an Ulster driving maul. They won a penalty off the ensuing scrum and it brought some much-needed relief for the hosts.

But Ulster had an abundance of possession and kept probing the Stormers line.

The Stormers defence held firm, though, and a scrum penalty in the 74th minute allowed them to exit their own area.

But just when it appeared as though the Stormers had weathered the storm, Dayimani put his team under more pressure with another high tackle, allowing Ulster to set up another attacking platform in the red zone.

In the 78th minute, Ulster thought they scored the winning try when replacement prop Callum Reid barged over after relentless pressure. However, subsequent replays showed he lost control of the ball on in the process of scoring.

The Stormers then won a vital penalty off the ensuing scrum, allowing Libbok to set up a lineout down-field.

Time was up, but the Stormers failed to secure their own lineout, giving Ulster one final opportunity.

The Irish giants couldn't make any headway though as the gallant Stormers defence forced another penalty before ending the contest.

URC standings


Stormers 23 (20)

Try: Paul de Wet, Leolin Zas

Conversion: Manie Libbok (2)

Penalties: Libbok (3)

Ulster 20 (13)

Tries: Marty Moore, Stuart McCloskey

Conversions: John Cooney (2)

Penalties: Cooney (2)

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