JON CARDINELLI watched a superior forward performance lay the platform for the Stormers’ 27-17 win against the Blues on Friday.
Having stood up to the Bulls pack in the most hostile of rugby environments, the Blues would have hoped for a repeat performance in a clash against a similarly robust Stormers side. On this occasion, however, they were handed a physical lesson by a more determined and accurate Stormers eight.
And once again, the Blues did themselves no favours with an erratic showing at the set pieces.
The home side showed plenty of intent during the initial stages, bossing territory as well as the battle at the gainline. It was another big match for youngsters like Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi, but it was a collective physical effort that pressured the Blues into errors and created scoring opportunities.
The Blues were on the back foot at the scrum and Keven Mealamu’s wayward lineout feeds gifted the hosts possession. It was in the first quarter where the Stormers made the most of their opportunities, pressuring the Blues defence and playing for territory. And it was ultimately a smart tactical probe by Dewaldt Duvenage that created the try-scoring opportunity, although the chase and finish by Bryan Habana was world class.
The backline made good ground and enjoyed a few half-breaks early on, but it was only in the second half where they tasted any real success. A sustained period on attack culminated in a try for captain Jean de Villiers, who broke the Blues line and powered over for the score.
But despite their forward dominance, the Stormers struggled to put a depleted (as far as the availability of first-choice players was concerned) and disjointed Blues side away.
A try from Benson Stanley in the 58th minute kept the visitors in the game, and this seemed to galvanise the Blues forwards. Charlie Faumuina crashed over from close range eight minutes later and a Gareth Anscombe conversion reduced the deficit to just seven points.
Some desperate defence by the collective and exemplary line-kicking by fullback Joe Pietersen allowed the Stormers to wrest back the initiative in the dying stages. Yet another scrum penalty against the inferior Blues pack allowed Pietersen to kick his fifth three-pointer of the night and establish a commanding 10-point buffer.