Cape Town - A 19-19 draw didn’t help anybody when the Stormers and the Lions shared the spoils at Newlands on Saturday night.
As it happened: Stormers 19-19 Lions
The result means that the Lions can no longer make the playoffs, and while the Stormers have secured top spot in the South African conference, their ambitions to secure a home semi-final have now been dealt a blow.
There was a late change to the Stormers side with captain Duane Vermeulen pulling out with a suspected pinched nerve in his neck – Nizaam Carr moving into the starting line-up while Michael Rhodes returned to the bench.
The home side were fastest out the blocks, dominating from the onset with attacking and direct running. They were a try up after just seven minutes when Nic Groom dotted down from the base of the ruck – Demetri Catrakilis knocking over the conversion despite a rare penalty miss in the opening minutes.
Catrakilis was lights out after Lions flank Jaco Kriel barged into him on 15 minutes. The Stormers flyhalf left the field, and immediately after his departure the visitors hit back.
A dominant rolling maul from the Lions was stopped on the tryline, but scrumhalf Faf de Klerk was able to pick the ball up and score blind side without being challenged. Jantjies added the extra two and it was all level.
Catrakilis would not return, and the Stormers turned to Kurt Coleman to be their general.
After a period of scrappy scrums the Stormers restored their lead when Dillyn Leyds continued his good form finishing off a well worked attacking sequence down the right. Coleman missed the kick and the Stormers were 12-7 ahead.
In the build-up to the try the Lions lost Alwyn Hollenbach, who was stretchered off after colliding with Eben Etzebeth.
The Lions, with it all to play for, were not going away. They drew level with five to play in the half when Schalk van der Merwe crashed over from close range to score despite the best efforts of Schalk Burger and Eben Etzebeth to hold him up.
Coleman would miss a sitter of a penalty on the stroke of half time to ensure that sides went in at 12-12.
There was little separating the sides in the opening phases of the second half, but a moment of individual brilliance from Cheslin Kolbe put Carr through for the Stormers’ third try on 52 minutes. Coleman had no troubles this time, and the Capetonians led 19-12.
It was brutal stuff, big hit after big hit keeping the crowd captivated. But with every passing minute the Lions saw their playoff hopes diminish a little more.
The visitors finished strong – a Steven Kitshoff yellow card in the final seven minutes giving them renewed hope. Desperate tryline defence from the Stormers could only last so long before substitute Malcolm Marx scored after another effective Lions maul.
Marnitz Boshoff slotted the conversion and 19-19 was the score.
The Lions came very close to a fourth try at the end, but it was not meant to be as the curtain came down on their season.
Tries: Nic Groom, Dillyn Leyds, Nizaam Carr
Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis, Kurt Coleman
Tries: Faf de Klerk, Schalk van der Merwe, Malcolm Marx
Conversions: Elton Jantjies, Marnitz Boshoff
15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Jaco Taute
15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 13. Harold Vorster, 12. Alwyn Hollenbach, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Warren Whiteley (captain), 7. Warwick Tecklenburg, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. Martin Muller, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Armand van der Merwe, 1. Schalk van der Merwe
Substitutes: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Corne Fourie, 18. Ruan Dreyer, 19. Robert Kruger, 20. Kwagga Smith, 21. Dillon Smit, 22. Marnitz Boshoff, 23. Howard Mnisi