The Stormers secured their first victory and a bonus point for four tries when they downed the Reds 34-16 in Brisbane.
The Stormers showed plenty of intent initially although their finishing was wanting. This was something that was remedied as they grew in confidence in the second half, and the way they strove for the fourth try and got it on the hooter was massively encouraging.
The first half was a disappointing one for the visitors as they continued to fire blanks on attack. Luke Watson failed to ground the ball thanks to a desperate effort from Reds winger Clinton Schifcofske, and the Stormers opensider also missed another opportunity when he attempted a American football swan dive over the top of a ruck. A string of errors also culled promising movements, as the Stormers breached the first line with ease but were less clinical in the finish.
The Reds were poor in the line-out and it was miscommunication near their own line that led to the first try by Peter Grant. The Stormers pivot was wide awake when the ball missed it mark and bounced up, racing through to score untouched. The scrums were far better by the hosts, and it was little surprise they opted for the set-piece when awarded a free kick.
Watson made a difference at the breakdown, but David Croft and loose forwards were the cause of many a turnover. The Stormers didn’t clean out as well as they have in previous weeks, and considering how often they crossed the advantage line on this occasion, they will feel disappointed with their ball security. They scored four tries, but against this Reds outfit, they could have scored a couple more.
Reds flyhalf Berrick Barnes had a good game, slotting a drop goal with his left foot in the first half and another with his right early in the second. His in-field kicking was also accurate, driving the Stormers back into their own half.
The Reds followed up Barnes’s second drop with a good period of sustained pressure. Leroy Houston drove hard at the line, but video evidence could not confirm whether he had scored. Nevertheless, the TMO ruled the try had been scored, and for the first time in the game, the Reds led at 16-13.
The Stormers’ response was instantaneous as Schalk Brits made a scything break in midfield. The hooker did well to find Francois Louw on his inside who offloaded to Watson for a fantastic try. The Stormers were growing in confidence and it showed in the manner in which they were shifting the ball. The Reds also tried to lift their game, but their handling cost them a few opportunities.
The visitors struck after another good try by replacement Bolla Conradie. Although it wasn’t the best finish with Grant passing the ball behind the scrumhalf, Conradie was good enough to recover and dive for the corner. Some quick hands after the buzzer saw Tonderai Chavhanga fly through on the wing, a deserved score since he had threatened all night.
The Stormers are finally off the mark in 2008 but more importantly they’ve scored four tries and won back some confidence. This will be crucial when going up against the Chiefs and Blues, where defence won’t win games.
Reds – Tries: Chris Latham, Leroy Houston. Drop goals: Berrick Barnes (2).
Stormers - Tries: Peter Grant, Luke Watson, Bolla Conradie, Tonderai Chavhanga. Conversions: Grant (4). Penalties: Grant (2).
By Jon Cardinelli