Lions errors spare Stormers blushes

JON CARDINELLI reports on the Stormers’ scrappy 19-16 win against the Lions on Saturday.

It seems the Lions have discovered new ways to torture their long-suffering fans. The Stormers were as disjointed and inaccurate as the team that plodded through the pre-season, and yet, they went to the break with a 9-8 lead. They held this slender advantage despite Deon Fourie’s yellow card in the 24th minute, and despite a defensive line that resembled a block of Swiss cheese.

The most well-organised defensive team in 2010, the Stormers looked clueless in the opening 40 minutes of their 2011 campaign. The Lions broke the line at will, and after exposing a defensive frailty in the wider channels, they finished through Waylon Murray to earn the lead.

What the Lions failed to do was make their subsequent linebreaks count. They conceded three points and scored none while Fourie was in the sin-bin, and flyhalf Elton Jantjies missed two kicks that could have given the visitors a handy half-time lead.

Gary van Aswegen’s accurate goal-kicking nudged the Stormers ahead, but it was a difficult and unimpressive debut for the 21-year-old. He wouldn’t have enjoyed the erratic display by his forwards, who struggled to control possession and conceded far too many penalties at the breakdown, but there was no excusing his own basic errors. His line-kicking was poor, and he also missed several penalty kicks to touch.

Peter Grant offered more stability on defence when he entered the fray in the 63rd minute, and also lifted the tempo on attack. The veteran’s introduction was made after the Lions had scored their second try and taken a 16-9 lead. It was a lead that could have been more imposing had Jantjies kicked the conversion, but the overrated youngster succumbed to the pressure just as he did in the Lions’ first game .

Grant nailed his first attempt at goal to bring the Stormers within striking distance, and although the Lions continued to dominate possession and territory, their own breakdown mistakes stalled promising attacking movements.

As the clock wound down, the momentum swung in the hosts’ favour with the introduction of several Stormers substitutes, not least of all Grant and scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage. On for the injured Schalk Burger, Pieter Louw also formed part of a more controlled and determined forward effort, getting over for a try in the 76th minute. Grant added the extras to ensure the hosts could not lose the game by conceding a penalty goal.

While the Lions held the lead for the majority of the second half, you always got the sense that the Stormers would steal it at the death. Like the derby at Ellis Park last week, there was little doubt of the Bulls’ ability to close out the game, but not enough was made of the Lions’ relinquishing of the lead. This cost them again at Newlands; they should have finished the Stormers when they had the chance.

Jantjies’s missed kicks will be taken into account, as will his inability to control the game from the flyhalf position. The Lions’ leadership must be questioned, as the team had the Stormers on the rack for long periods but could not muster the intelligence nor the accuracy for the killing blow.

The Stormers will be relieved to score a home win, but there were very few positives to take from an abysmal performance. Their discipline and execution was as bad as it was in the pre-season, and more worryingly, their once proud defence was breached all too easily.

Stormers – Try: Pieter Louw. Conversion: Peter Grant. Penalties: Gary van Aswegen (3), Grant.
Lions – Tries: Waylon Murray, Jaco Taute. Penalties: Elton Jantjies (2).

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