The Cell C Sharks went down 27-16 to the Stormers at Newlands in a disappointing Vodacom Super Rugby match on Saturday evening.
An uncharacteristically empty Newlands greeted the Stormers to their final match of their 2018 season that has failed to live up to the hype, but it was the home side that finished the match on a high in difficult conditions. 43 handling errors from the two sides (the Stormers with 27) told a story of problems that had a problematic effect on continuity.
The first points of the game came in the opening five minutes, thanks to pressure exerted on the home side both on attack to force the turnover, then on defence later on to force an error that led to a penalty that Robert du Preez struck gamely through the posts.
But the Stormers responded almost immediately, exploiting a gap in defence created by dummy runners to score under the posts for a 7-3 lead inside 10 minutes.
Philip van der Walt secured a good penalty less than a minute later, making a tackle then getting to his feet to fight for the ball before the arriving cleaners and du Preez’s trusty boot narrowed the gap to just one point.
Du Preez made it three from three with a third penalty, the Stormers under pressure and conceding a penalty on attack in their half with the first quarter of the game played and the Cell C Sharks enjoying a two point, 9-7 lead.
It took a good 10 minutes until the next score when the Stormers weathered an attack into their 22 and slowly worked their way up-field before hammering away at our line through multiple pick and drive phases before the ball went out wide for the try in the corner. The successful conversion took the home side into a 14-9 lead on the half hour mark.
With the first half winding down, the Stormers found space in broken play and managed to score their third try, the conversion taking them into a 21-9 lead and cause all sorts of problems as the game approached half-time.
Recent rains rendered the field unplayable at times, the scrums unstable, the players slipping and sliding and the ball taking on the properties of a bar of soap. It certainly didn’t help our cause and was a contributing factor to the Stormers lead.
The Stormers worked their way back upfield again as the half-time whistle beckoned, and although they fluffed a lineout, we lost the ball forward for a scrum. A penalty was awarded but further danger was averted as the kick was wide, but a 12 point lead for the home side was a worry for the Cell C Sharks.
Like last week’s fightback from a big half-time deficit, the Cell C Sharks showed great character with a well-worked build-up to a try to replacement Kobus van Wyk. Robert du Preez converted and it was now a five point lead two minutes into the second half.
With the momentum shift in our favour, Lwazi Mvovo went over for a good try, only for the TMO to rule a forward pass in the build-up. The Stormers stretch their lead to eight points with 15 minutes to go with a penalty after being repelled time and again on our tryline.
The Stormers survived another TMO decision as the game headed for the final few minutes with the game slipping away and from a resultant penalty, managed to kick themselves into an unassailable lead that the Cell C Sharks could never overcome.
Next week’s final home game of the pool stages against the Jaguares at JONSSON KINGS PARK now takes on significant importance as the Cell C Sharks chase a top eight finish and a place in the quarter-finals.
Captain Ruan Botha said afterwards, “This is a game of missed opportunities, we had so many chances but didn’t capitilise. We prepared for a knock-out game but missed out, well done to the Stormers. We didn’t capitalise in the first half, but came out with a head of steam in the second half. Sadly it wasn’t enough.”