Last-gasp kick earns Stormers draw against leaders Crusaders
Stormers flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis kicked a last minute penalty to earn the Stormers a 19-19 draw with defending Super Rugby champions the Crusaders in a pulsating clash at Newlands.
The decision to take the shot at goal when there was a chance to win the match at the death will be debating for some time. If the Stormers went for the try and failed to score they would have earned one log point. As it was they only took home two points.
On a weekend when all their rivals in the SA Conference won, perhaps the Stormers needed to be bolder in the dying embers of the game. But conversely, taking a team as good as the Crusaders to the wire could do their confidence a world of good with four rounds remaining and a play-off spot still on the line.
The Stormers started and ended strongly in a thunderous clash that saw Boks Damian de Allende and Bongi Mbonambi both hobble off with leg injuries.
Captain Siya Kolisi got his team off to a perfect start when he ran on to a flat Josh Stander pass for the opening score of the match just seven minutes in. Stander converted and added a penalty to put the Stormers into a 10-0 lead.
The Crusaders showed the composure of a championship-winning team after they were pinned back by a ferocious Stormers onslaught in the opening quarter. Lesser teams would’ve been panicked by the Stormers’ intensity and execution from the start.
But the Crusaders are no ordinary team and while they were on the back foot, they gradually found a grip on the game by winning some crucial breakdown penalties that gave them field position.
They slowly started to turn the screw on a Stormers team, that had only breached the Crusaders line once despite their early superiority.
Little seeds of doubt started to creep into the Stormers’ game and the errors started to mount.
From a lineout close to the Stormers line following a penalty in the 28th minute, the Crusaders scored from a ubiquitous rolling maul, flank Matt Todd doing the honours.
The momentum of the match shifted and the Stormers, who had by now lost Mbonambi to a knee injury, were in retreat. Another Stormers penalty led to another Crusaders lineout five metres out.
They failed to score from the maul that followed, but from the ensuing scrum flyhalf Richie Mo’unga stabbed through an outrageous kick for fullback David Havili to run on to and score. It was frighteningly clinical in its execution and construction.
Although the Stormers hung on until halftime the match felt like it was slipping away. There was inevitability about the stranglehold the visitors had on the match even though they only led by two points at the break.
Driving the point home, the Crusaders carved a hole through the Stormers defence barely four minutes into the second half when hooker Codie Taylor ran away from the hobbling De Allende.
Replacement wing Braydon Ennor completed the score and suddenly the Crusaders were out of sight after scoring 19 unanswered points in 19 minutes.
From that position the Crusaders have put many teams away emphatically, but the Stormers, despite their lowly position on the log, are a scrapping team. And they stayed in the fight with three penalties – from Stander and Du Plessis to ensure the contest smoldered until the very end.