Stormers stun pink Bulls
Cape Super Rugby side are on a roll of five straight wins and are building up some steam as they set off for New Zealand this week, writes Craig Ray at Newlands
Stormers (14) 20 - Bulls (0) 17
FOR the second time this season flyhalf Peter Grant stepped up late in the game to kick the Stormers to victory as the Cape side scraped home in a tense clash against their fiercest rivals.
Grant's 45m penalty three minutes from time sealed a victory that should never have been in doubt after the Stormers dominated the first half and looked to be on their way to a comfortable win.
This was an epic struggle in the great traditions of north/south derbies with all the associated guts and gore.
Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers said his side's home loss to the Bulls in the corresponding fixture last year halted their momentum. There was no repeat last night.
It's still early in the campaign but the Stormers are on a roll of five straight wins and are building up some steam as they set off for New Zealand this week.
Fullback Joe Pietersen slotted four penalties and hooker Tiaan Liebenberg scored a try on half time while the Bulls crossed the chalk twice through wing Bjorn Basson and centre Wynand Olivier.
The match wasn't pretty, there was just uncompromising physicality, lots of niggle and no shortage of courage in a match that could have lit up Newlands even if they had turned off the lights to mark Earth Hour.
The Stormers scrum dominated the latter stages and it was this that ultimately won the game as the pack earned the penalty which Grant slotted.
The Bulls seemed stunned when confronted with the difference between playing against a team that was knocked backwards at every collision and one that was the exact opposite.
After bullying the meek Reds into submission last week the Bulls ran into a Stormers unit that was muscular and confrontational. And it took the Bulls 40 minutes to absorb the shock and work their way back into a match that appeared to be slipping away.
The visitors went into the halftime shed 14-0 down in a contest where they were losing the physical battle as well as the fight for the scoreboard. For good measure they also went into the break on a team warning for continuous spiteful infringements.
It took just 30 seconds of the second half for the team warning to translate into a yellow card for lock Flip van der Merwe after he sacked opposite number Eben Etzebeth.
That should have signalled the Stormers march to a comfortable victory, but instead it was the Bulls that responded to their plight positively. From a turnover deep in their own half Bulls scrumhalf Francois Hougaard hacked ahead and from the resulting chase wing Bjorn Basson touched down to score against the run of play. The lead halved.
Flyhalf Morne Steyn's penalty's three minutes later suddenly made it a tense, close encounter, when in reality the Bulls had only enjoyed parity for no more than 10 minutes.
Stormers 20 - Try: Tiaan Liebenberg. Penalties: Joe Pietersen (4), Peter Grant.
Bulls 17 - Tries: Bjorn Basson, Wynand Olivier. Conversions: Morne Steyn (2). Penalties: Steyn.