A last-minute penalty by centre Ben Atiga ensured a tight 17-14 Super 14 victory for the Blues in a war of attrition against the Western Stormers.
Foxsports reports that after two surprise losses, the Blues got their campaign back on track and ended the Stormers’ hopes of winning three from three on their road trip to Australia and New Zealand.
Atiga redeemed himself after missing three other attempts at goal, coolly slotting a 38-metre kick right on fulltime.
The Blues lacked structure at times due to the absence of playmaker Nick Evans, who suffered concussion in their loss to the Western Force last week.
Replacement flyhalf Isaia Toeava made an impact with ball in hand but the lack of consistent tactical and goal kicking nearly cost the Blues dearly.
But the home team moved the ball wide with conviction in attack and strung together more phases of play than their more staid South African opponents.
Blues captain Troy Flavell afterwards expressed frustration that his side were unable to be more clinical in their execution.
“I’m still not really happy with our performance tonight,” Flavell said, pointing to the number of turnovers in favour of the Stormers.
“If we are going to have a chance for the semi-finals, we’ve got to sharpen up.”
The Stormers opened the scoring with a Peter Grant penalty after three minutes, and the visitors enjoyed early dominance as the Blues gave up a string of turnovers at the breakdown.
The Blues hit back with a try to scrumhalf Danny Lee after nine minutes following a break down the left flank in which fullback Rudi Wulf and flanker Daniel Braid played crucial roles.
The Stormers paid for persistent infringements, giving Atiga three easy penalty attempts, which he converted to put the home team 14-6 ahead by the 30-minute mark, a lead they took into the halftime break.
The last of those penalties saw frustrated referee Paul Marks send Stormers flanker Francois Louw to the sin bin after 30 minutes, but the Blues were unable to capitalise on his 10-minute absence from the field.
In the second half, the Stormers were able to put some sustained pressure on the Blues 22 and were rewarded when fullback Conrad Jantjes took an inside pass from replacement flyhalf and former All Black Tony Brown to score their sole try after 54 minutes.
Victory appeared to be slipping away for the Blues after Grant kicked another penalty to tie the scores in the 72nd minute and when Atiga missed two penalty attempts within six minutes.
The looks of relief from the Blues said it all as Atiga’s final attempt sailed between the posts and the fulltime whistle blew.Tweet