JON CARDINELLI reports on the Stormers’ unconvincing 39-26 win over an ill-disciplined yet plucky Hurricanes side on Saturday.
A last-minute effort by fullback Joe Pietersen so nearly earned the Stormers a bonus-point try, but it seemed fitting that the Cape side were denied a full-haul of log points. In fact, the Stormers turned in a performance that was at times so loose that they were fortunate to walk away with a win at all.
They dominated the early stages of the first half, their forwards manhandling the tourists at the point of contact and via the rolling maul. The loss of captain Schalk Burger to what appeared to be a serious knee injury did little to stall their forward momentum, and by the 34th minute they had established a formidable 20-9 lead.
It was all the Hurricanes could do to spoil at the breakdowns and at the maul, and by the end of the half they had lost props Tristan Moran and Ben May to yellow cards for professional fouls. Despite the two-man disadvantage, however, the Hurricanes stonewalled the limited Stormers attack and struck with a try of their own right on half-time. Beauden Barrett followed up a cool goal-kicking display with a game-breaking offload right on the buzzer, and centre Tim Bateman finished under the posts.
Suddenly the team that had been on the wrong side of a savage beating was only seven points adrift. The Hurricanes were also first to score in the second stanza when Barrett intercepted a loose pass by Jean de Villiers and raced clear. The young flyhalf showed terrific pace to avoid a desperate Gio Aplon en route to the tryline, and then managed to get up and slot a difficult conversion.
The next 20 minutes was a mixed bag for the hosts, who produced some impressive forward drives but also put themselves under unnecessary pressure with basic errors. If they had been playing a more experienced Hurricanes outfit, they may not have been so fortunate to escape with the spoils.
They were awarded a penalty try after a sustained period on attack in Hurricanes territory, and Pietersen continued to knock the penalties over to generate some breathing room. There were some positives in an largely erratic display, and Pietersen’s goal-kicking under pressure was certainly one of them.
The maul also worked well, but the Stormers still seem to lack that killer instinct on attack. They should have scored a try towards the end of the first half and buried the Hurricanes, but flyhalf Gary van Aswegen eventually opted for the drop goal after it was clear the hosts weren’t going anywhere. This after stand-in captain Jean de Villiers had decided to turn down goalable penalties and push for the try.
There were also a number of youngsters on show for the hosts, but considering their fine start, they should have put this inexperienced and ill-disciplined Hurricanes side away by far more.