JON CARDINELLI watched the Stormers succeed for the first time in the Australian capital with a 16-3 win against the Brumbies.
It was a welcomed result for the South African conference leaders. It marks the first time they’ve won in Canberra, and ensures that they stay on course for a home semi-final.
Coach Allister Coetzee will be the first to declare mission accomplished, but he won’t be happy with the quality of performance. The Brumbies had their opportunities and a more confident outfit may have sent this Stormers team packing.
Coetzee will also be concerned that for the second time on tour, his team finished the match with a make-shift backline.
There was plenty of talk during the week about how the Stormers’ management backed Kurt Coleman as their chief playmaker at flyhalf. Perhaps they forgot to relay the message to Coleman himself, as the youngster suffered from a bad case of nerves in the opening exchanges and never fully recovered.
He was substituted in 50th minute as Coetzee revisited the Dewaldt Duvenage option that proved so effective in the second half against the Blues. But when Duvenage went down with an injury of his own, Conrad Jantjes was asked to step in at pivot.
Coetzee will be satisfied with a 13-point victory in light of the trying circumstances, but a closer analysis of that first half will reveal that at their full compliment, the Stormers were guilty of bad decision making and far too may unforced errors.
They had the Brumbies on the rack in the early exchanges, but a general lack of patience prevented them from turning that dominance into points. Their kicking out of hand was wasteful and inaccurate, and they struggled to secure lineout ball in prime attacking positions.
They were fortunate that on the day, the Brumbies were a special brand of diabolical. The absence of Rocky Elsom meant the home pack was always going to struggle at the collisions, and the late withdrawal of Matt Giteau had a debilitating effect on the Brumbies’ attack and goal-kicking.
They certainly had their chances. Henry Speight failed to collect a pass with the tryline at his mercy and too often the Brumbies’ multiphase attack was overturned by the Stormers’ aggressive defence. The Stormers’ defence was incredible, but going by the amount of possession the hosts enjoyed, they should have scored more than three points.
The Brumbies also failed to punish the Stormers’ mistakes. A wayward feed to a Stormers’ lineout early in the second half was snapped up by the hosts, and then fumbled into touch. The Stormers were more clinical from the very next next set-piece, and after banking possession, Francois Louw barrelled over to score from third phase.
Gio Aplon’s late penalty ensured that the Stormers finished the game with some breathing room, and that trademark defensive wall denied the Brumbies a consolatory bonus point.