Three try flurry saves Stormers

Three tries in four minutes midway through the second half propelled the Stormers to their third away victory of the Vodacom Super 14 when they downed the Reds 24-20 in Brisbane.

The dance of the desperates never promised much, and errors plagued both side’s attempts to play constructively. The Stormers were further hamstrung by poor decision making – particularly at halfback – and a defensively frail back three. But for their four minute purple match, they did not threaten the Reds line with any conviction.

Credit, however, has to go to under-fire Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe. His tactical decisions have been questionable this season, but tonight in Brisbane he got it right.

Last week the substitution of Naas Olivier after 50 minutes was a major contibuting factor to the defeat to the Chiefs. Now the same move was the catalyst to victory.

Olivier endured a disappointing first half, and the simulatenous injection of Peter Grant at flyhalf and Joe Pietersen at fullback sparked the Stormers, and 13-3 became 13-24 in minutes.

The momentum, so convincingly wrenched from the Reds, was never going to be conceded and a late score through veteran centre Ben Tune was a shade less than consolation.

The performance, coming after two consecutive defeats, was vital in the context of the Cape side’s season. The quality of the opposition was not great, but with the Crusaders, Sharks and Bulls to come, the Stormers knew that a win was crucial.

The confidence boost and familiar surroundings could well prove the cocktail that lifts the Stormers to a late season charge, ensuring respectability and – more importantly – time for the existing coaching staff and management.

Van der Merwe is a realist, and will know that the victory does not camouflage some home truths. Tonderai Chavhanga is not a fullback, he possesses neither the defensive ability or positional sense to inspire the most brittle confidence. His place is on the wing.

Jongi Nokwe, who later atoned through an 80 metre try, produced another wobbly with ball in hand and Rayno Benjamin was just plain appalling.

De Wet Barry, slated for the defeat against the Chiefs and caught up in the captaincy storm that followed, was immense in his return to jersey 12. Barry is not a 13 and if Van der Merwe cannot accomodate him as a 12 then he cannot accomodate him in the starting side.

Jean de Villiers underlined his split rugby personality further by again providing flashes of genius on attack, before fading to a ghost on defence. It was his awful attempt at a first-time tackle on Drew Mitchell that saw the Reds out to their convincing half time lead.

The Stormers return to Cape Town with renewed hope, but it is vital that perspective is maintained. The Reds in Brisbane are an entirely different prospect to the Crusaders in Cape Town, and it is the fixtures with the champions, semi-final chasing Sharks and arch enemies the Bulls that will decide whether the Cape side’s campaign will be deemed acceptable.

At this stage of the season, however, the Stormers will take what they get. Victory, no matter the opposition or the circumstance, is good enough for now.

THE MOMENTS THAT MATTER

78 mins: Consolation for the Reds through Ben Tune. Huxley converts. (Huxley 2/5)

60 mins: De Villiers inches from an intercept score. He knocks on unfortunately and it’s a Reds scrum.

58 mins: Stormers on fire! They score their try of the season with awesome work from De Villiers, Benjamin and Barry. Great support lines and handling sees Gerrie Britz under the poles. Grant converts. (Grant 3/3)

56 mins: Nokwe atones for a poor game with an 80m try. His control in dribbling from his own line is impressive and he has the pace and composure to score. Grant converts from in front , and the Stormers snatch the lead. (Grant 2/2)

54 mins: Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe introduces Peter Grant and Joe Pietersen and it has an immediate impact. Strength in contact from Grant and fine touches from Pietersen see Brits make the scoring pass to Van Niekerk. Grant converts. (Grant 1/1)

51 mins: Andries Bekker is penalised for mountaineering, a call captain Barry and Bekker contest to no avail. Huxley to push the Reds out further … he’s missed an absolute sitter. (Huxley 1/4)

48 mins: Benjamin having a shocker. He knocks on again after a well worked Watson/Brits blindside move.

43 mins: 5m scrum sees Van Niekerk carry the ball strongly. It comes back to Olivier but he takes the wrong option and knocks on in heavy traffic.

42 mins: Stormers make a few metres through one-off runners, and the Reds concede the penalty. Barry instructs Olivier to go for the lineout, which is knocked on by the Reds. 5m scrum.

39 mins: Luke Watson makes a scrambling cover tackle that saves a certain score. Stormers’ line again broken with ease.

38 mins: Benjamin with an appalling clearance. The back three continue to struggle.

30 mins: Jean de Villiers AGAIN misses a routine tackle, he makes a pathetic attempt on Mitchell and the Wallaby flyer is through. Appalling, unacceptable defence. Huxley misses the conversion. (Huxley 1/3)

29 mins: Benjamin knocks the rolling ball. It’s not getting any better for those wearing 11,14 and 15.

26 mins: Great chase by Barry and fierce contesting by Burger wins the Stormers a vital penalty against the run of play. Big moments from the two Boks. Olivier has the chance to reduce the lead to two. He pushes it. (Olivier 1/2)

23 mins: Stormers back three on the ropes. Probing kicks behind Benjamin are also finding acres of space. Reds unlucky not to score from a maul when they’re pinged for accidental offside.

19 mins: Back three again appear shaky. Chavhanga takes the ball back into his 22 before clearing, thus the lineout is from where he kicked it. Reds showing a willingness to exploit Chavhanga and Nokwe’s brittle defence

18 mins: Reds not helping their cause by terrible tactical kicking. Second kick out on the full in 4 minutes.

16 mins: Simple high ball spilled by Nokwe.

14 mins: Good incisive attack by the Stormers. Barry and Chavhanga make good ground, but Nokwe is crowded out.

11 mins: Stormers retain possession well and get it within a metre. Reds pinged and this time Barry opts for the three. No problem for Olivier. (Olivier 1/1)

9 mins: Kickable penlty, and the Stormers opt for the lineout. Brave play.

7 mins: Naas Olivier’s attempted clearance is charged down, and from the resultant scrambling ruck De Wet Barry is pinged for hands. Gives Huxley the simplest chance to extend the lead, and he does. (Huxley 1/2)

6 mins: Reds inches away from another linebreak, this time in the Stormers 22. It’s tips of the fingers stuff for Drew Mitchell, and he just can’t hold on. Again, Stormers seem defensively frail out wide.

3 mins: Stormers start badly, as is now routine. They kick away a lot of possession early and concede a soft try to the rampaging Rodney Blake from close out.Julian Huxley has the chance to convert, but he pulls it. (Huxley 0/1)

SCORERS

Reds

Tries: Rodney Blake, Drew Mitchell and Ben Tune
Con: Julian Huxley
Pen: Huxley

Stormers

Tries: Joe van Niekerk, Jongi Nokwe and Gerrie Britz
Cons: Peter Grant 3
Pen: Naas Olivier

By Chris Hewitt