This match was about as attractive as a warthog in mud — and the Stormers could not even blame jet lag for their defeat.
Richard Knowler writes for The Times that New Zealanders have heard plenty of South African Super 14 teams gripe about the long- haul flights to Australasia over the years, but the Stormers had no such excuse at AMI Stadium yesterday.
A bye meant the team from the Western Cape had a full week to prepare for this match at a luxury resort — a complex renowned for tricky water hazards on its golf course — on the outskirts of Christchurch.
Yet the Stormers played like a weekend hacker with just a few battered irons and a putter in his bag.
Things started rosy enough for the visitors when No8 Luke Watson shrugged off four weak Crusaders tackles to cross over for the opening try in the ninth minute, but that was to be their lot.
The remaining 71 minutes was peppered with poor passing, dropped passes, turnovers and wayward kicking. The difference between the two sides was two penalty kicks by Stephen Brett.
Crusaders right wing Adam Whitelock scored the only other try in the match in the first spell. This meant the crowd of 14000 was forced to endure the next 40 minutes to see just one penalty kicked.
This was a nasty way for the Stormers to start their five-match Australasian tour. They next face the Waratahs, who beat the Blues in Auckland on Friday, in Sydney.
Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus as good as acknowledged that this match was not one that would be used as a promotional tool for the code.
“It wasn’t a nice game to watch. It was a very scrappy affair,” he said. “I don’t think it was great rugby from either team.”
The Stormers were forced to defend for prolonged periods and were prepared to sacrifice free kicks at the breakdown to slow the Crusaders’ ball down. The Stormers also used their speed in the back line to shut down their opponents’ obsession to play to a plan based on width.
“They didn’t give us a lot of lineouts or a platform to attack from,’’ lamented Erasmus, who noted his scrum struggled to get much leeway from referee Keith Brown.
With Brown seemingly reluctant to dish out full-arm penalties or yellow cards, the match was punctuated by free kicks.
But juicy attacking opportunities were often wasted by the lack of cohesion both teams suffered from.
This display from the Stormers was a far cry from the shellacking they gave the Lions at Newlands fortnight ago and even taking the bye into consideration, it was perplexing to see them go off the boil so quickly.
“Overall, both teams didn’t play well tonight. I will never accuse a team of not playing well, but I don’t think any of us can be proud of the way we played,” admitted Erasmus.
The Stormers loosies of Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger and Watson were kept busy in defence and, at the breakdown, scrumhalf Ricky Januarie was continually sniffing around for opportunities.
However, spectators who hoped to see the attacking skills of Jean de Villiers and Percy Montgomery were disappointed.
The pair were rarely sighted with ball in hand and the score might have favoured the home side even more if their players had made better use of their possession and finished off promising movements.
For the Crusaders, lock Isaac Ross and No8 Thomas Waldrom were their best performers.
Crusaders 11 — Try: Adam Whitelock. Penalties: Stephen Brett (2).
Stormers 7 — Try: Luke Watson. Conversion: Willem de Waal.Tweet