Poor officiating contributed to the Stormers defeat in Albany, but it was not the reason for the one point defeat.
The Stormers have in the last four seasons been the best defensive unit in the competition. But their attacking game has never matched their potency on defence and their individual skills were a letdown in Albany.
There were opportunities to turn pressure into try-scoring points but basic handling errors undid all the good defence.
There were wrong calls from the match officials, none more so than on the 70th minute. The Stormers had just scored to reduce the deficit to 15-10 and the momentum of the game favoured the South Africans.
The Blues cleared from their own half through a chip kick which went out on halfway off winger Rene Ranger. The touch judge ruled the ball had come off Stormers replacement flyhalf Elton Jantjies, but replays showed he hadn’t come close to the ball in contesting it with Ranger.
The Blues won the lineout and from the lineout won a penalty for a ruck infringement. Chris Noakes kicked the penalty to take the score to 18-10. It was a pivotal moment in determining the outcome. This meant the Stormers had to score twice to win the game. They nearly did after Jean de Villiers scored a superb individual try to reduce the deficit to one point.
Despite the poor officiating the Stormers still had the chance to win the game. They then turned over the Blues lineout with two minutes to play but poor handling cost them. They again turned over the Blues scrum with 20 seconds to play and from the resultant scrum kept the ball for nearly four minutes, which included 20 phases.
They were playing for the penalty or the drop goal but the Blues were disciplined on defence and there was never a contentious issue over any referee rulings in those 20 phases.
The Stormers seemed to run out of passing options of attack when the ball was finally given to Jantjies to try and win it with a drop goal. He was positioned 35 metres back and got the ball under pressure. His attempt was more hit and hope and the kick never threatened the cross bar.
The Stormers handling was inconsistent on the night and they had opportunities to win the game in the final five minutes.
Jean de Villiers was inspirational and world class. He scored two tries, the second of which was of his own individual brilliance and the first was as a beneficiary of a fantastic Juan de Jongh break.
The Stormers just made too many errors against a Blues team who struggled defensively for most of the match but produced their most impressive defensive effort of the season in the four minutes after the hooter.
This is one that got away from the Stormers and it could have huge implications on their push for a play-off. They won’t finish in the top two of the league so a home play-off is not an option. The best they can hope for is a top six finish and an away semi-final and final.
All the mathematicians out there will find some formula that provides hope until the end of the league season but the reality is that the one point defeat in Albany is far greater in the context of their campaign than just one point.