The Stormers had it tough yesterday, but finished with a hiss and a roar to condemn the Lions to last place in the Vodacom Super 14 standings.
However, the Capetonians’ failure to score four tries cost them a place in the semifinals.
Clinton Van Der Berg writes for the Sunday Times that both teams engaged in a furious arm-wrestle, and it wasn’t until the final five minutes that the Stormers secured the vital win. The rah-rah brigade from the Cape had been quietened by the fury of the Lions, but two deadly late strikes got them going again.
The Lions’ defence had been a cornerstone of their game, but they needed a nuclear arsenal to stop the tank otherwise known as Sireli Naqelevuki. The teams were locked at 8-8 until the scary Fijian smashed his way through. Big man, big moment.
It proved telling. Two minutes later the Stormers were at it again, and Robbie Diack secured the win with a score in the corner.
The result, and indeed the flow of the match, resembled the nature of the Lions season: they’re committed and honest but lack the polish and class demanded of a bruising competition like the Super 14.
The Stormers, in turn, had a great run. Foundation laid, next season they will be even better.
Patience hasn’t always been a virtue this season, but they demonstrated it yesterday.
Notwithstanding the Lions being pumped up for their final Super 14 match of the season, the Stormers took their time before killing off their opponents with the savage denouement.
The Lions initially created much of the running, but the opportunities fell to the Stormers who feasted on the Lions’ risky tactics.
When you’ve had the sort of season the Lions have, you’re probably entitled to a few shortcuts. They played the game very flat, too flat in fact, and consequently suffered under referee Marius Jonker’s hand.
Possession wasn’t a problem, though. They snaffled three Stormers lineouts in the first 20 minutes alone and Joe van Niekerk, in particular, was a vibrant force on attack, often standing off as second receiver and carrying the ball up strongly.
His later call-up to the Bok training squad was due reward after a splendid season.
The Lions’ finest attacking move in the first half, when Peter Grant turned the ball over, was attractive, but all the rugby was played behind the gainline. They got nothing for it.
If nothing else works, a cynical approach is one way to snuff out the opposition, but the Lions’ cause was further deflated when Walter Venter was carded for repeated infringements at the tackle area.
Jean de Villiers had spent the afternoon probing for weakness. He finally found his opening just after the half-hour, the Stormers having bust open the Lions with a series of powerful drives.
But then Rayno Benjamin and Jano Vermaak performed an impressive two-man act that caught the Stormers unawares at the start of the second half, Earl Rose profiting to even up the try-count. Game on.
The Stormers’ lineouts resembled a dog’s breakfast, but their scrum was more dependable and provided the required momentum for the backs.
But there wasn’t a lot going on with them yesterday, most of the spark coming in broken play from Naqelevuki, De Villiers and Grant.
At least their defence held, and Conrad Jantjes provided a bullet-like kicking service at the back.
A Rose penalty evened up the scores and then the teams sparred for ages, the action swinging back and forth.
With the Lions’ home support in full voice, the home side appeared in greater control. A slew of smart replacements kept them on the boil, and they simply never stopped trying.
Rose, especially, lit things up with his cavalier style and perpetual-motion play.
But then the Stormers broke the deadlock after a mighty thrash. Naqelevuki, as ever, straightened and bashed his way through. The tries were like waiting for a bus: you hang around for ages and then two come along at once. The celebrations had hardly died down and Diack scored the third. The Stormers were home and dry.
Not even Jannie Boshoff’s try for the Lions in the penultimate minute could deny them.
Lions 13 — Tries: Earl Rose, Jannie Boshoff. Penalty: Rose.
Stormers 22 — Tries: Jean de Villiers, Sireli Naqelevuki, Robbie Diack. Conversions: Peter Grant (2). Penalty: Grant.Tweet