Vodacom Super 14

A Hill too high for Stormers

2010-04-02 13:56
Schalk Burger (AP)
Perth - A late drop-goal off the last move of the game ended the Western Force’s losing run as the home team edged home 16-15 against the Stormers in Perth on Saturday.

It was an agonising way for the Stormers to lose, but if they were honest, they would have to agree that this was one that they did not deserve to win. The Force had most of the momentum in the game, and they missed no less than four kicks at goal, while Peter Grant of the Stormers produced a 100% performance for the Cape team.

The Stormers usually pride themselves on their accuracy, but in this game they were sloppy, making numerous mistakes that prevented them from getting the much needed momentum. The field kicking was poor, the passing was at times woeful, and the handling was even worse.

It was not as if the Stormers did not have possession, for the Force lineout was a mess, and the Stormers also managed to turn the ball over at the breakdown on several occasions, particularly in the first half. Sadly for Schalk Burger’s men, however, they were too frequently unable to hold onto the ball, with both himself and Andries Bekker taking turns to knock balls on after the hard work of winning it had been done.

Let it be said that the Stormers probably won’t be toasting Australian referee Stuart Dickinson for his role in the game. The Stormers have an abysmal record when Dickinson has the whistle, and this defeat made it even worse – 10 defeats and just one win.

Both sides suffered because of Dickinson’s at times overly strict application of the high tackle law, but time and again the Stormers players were seen scratching their heads in bewilderment or remonstrating the referee in a match where they conceded a much higher than usual penalty count.

But it wasn’t just about the referee, for the full truth of it was that the Stormers just looked horribly off their game. Those who have watched the Super 14 over several years might feel they have seen this movie before – a team has a bye week, has to travel overseas, and suddenly the momentum is no longer there.

It is only a nine hour flight from Johannesburg to Perth (in other words 11 with an additional three hour change-over from Cape Town), but the Bulls also looked short of energy when they played the Force on the previous weekend. Perhaps the South African teams should re-think the new policy of flying to Perth just three days before kick-off.

Neither side played well, and the Force also made a lot of mistakes, but full credit must go to the Force for the pressure they applied on the Stormers in their quest to break what had been a long sequence of defeat.

The key for them seemed to be the quest to take the Stormers out of their comfort zone and make them flustered, something they succeeded in doing. The questions before the tour revolved around whether the Stormers would retain the same composure under pressure as they did in their home run at Newlands, and you have to say that on the evidence of this 80 minutes it does not look good.

The Stormers started strongly enough, with the big Stormers tackles on the Force players ensuring that Nathan Sharpe’s team made no headway across the advantage line. In the early stages it was the Stormers who looked more likely to create opportunities, and it wasn’t a big surprise when Grant raised the flags for the first points of the match in the fifth minute.

The Force were having a nightmare in the lineouts, due in part no doubt to the pressure being applied by Bekker, who went into the game with the most lineout steals in the competition.

However a moment in the match that typified the Stormers effort and can perhaps be listed as a turning point came in the 10th minute, when from a great turn-over a poor pass was spilled by Bekker. Instead of playing to the whistle, the Stormers players stood around as if the game had stopped, and the Force took advantage by going onto the attack.

The Force put the Stormers under pressure at one of the early scrums, and it wasn’t too long after that the Force scored the only try of the match as Mark Bartholomeusz fashioned an excellent switch pass that caught the normally immaculate Stormers defence off guard.

David Pocock rounded the try off for the Force, the first time this season they had crossed the chalk in the first quarter, and also the first time the Stormers had conceded a five pointer so early on.

The Stormers did appear vulnerable to the Force switch, and being behind 7-3 seemed to fluster the Stormers, who had to some desperate defending to prevent themselves from going further behind. But James O’Connor missed a kick at goal, and the Stormers managed to bring themselves back into the contest when Grant another penalty to narrow the deficit to one point.

O’Connor missed another one before half-time and the Stormers were lucky to go to the break trailing just 7-6. Their second half was better, and they started it with purpose. Their best try scoring opportunity of the game came in the 45th minute when the ball rolled forward from Sireli Naqelevuki’s grasp as he reached out for the line on the corner flag.

The territorial ascendancy the South Africans enjoyed at that stage did pay off in the end though with another Grant penalty to regain the lead, and the two kickers another two kicks each to leave it 15-13 to the Stormers going into the final minutes.

The Force had a put-in at a scrum after the hooter, Dickinson awarded them a free kick, they scrummed again, drove the ball up the middle to set it up for Hill, and the flyhalf wobbled it over the cross bar to break Stormers hearts and send the long suffering home crowd into ecstasy.


Western Force:
Tries: Pocock
Conversions: O’Connor
Penalties: O’Connor (2)
Drop kick: Hill

Penalties: Grant (5)


Western Force:
15. James O’Connor, 14. Scott Staniforth, 13. Mitch Inman, 12. Ryan Cross, 11. Mark Bartholomeusz, 10. David Hill, 9. Chris O’Young, 8. Matt Hodgson, 7. David Pocock, 6. Ben McCalman, 5. Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4. Tom Hockings, 3. Tim Fairbrother, 2. Ben Whittaker, 1. Pek Cowan

Substitutes: 16. Nathan Charles, 17. Matt Dunning, 18. Richard Stanford, 19. Richard Brown, 20. Justin Turner, 21. Sam Harris, 22. Haig Sare

15. Gio Aplon, 14. Sireli Naqelevuki, 13. Jaque Fourie, 12. Tim Whitehead, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Peter Grant, 9. Ricky Januarie, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Francois Louw, 6. Schalk Burger (captain), 5. Andries Bekker, 4. De Kock Steenkamp, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Tiaan Liebenberg, 1. JC Kritzinger

Substitutes: 16. Deon Fourie, 17. Eusebio Guinazu, 18. Anton van Zyl, 19. Pieter Louw, 20. Dewaldt Duvenage, 21. Willem de Waal, 22. Frikkie Welsh


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