The Cell C Sharks suffered a disappointing 25-22 loss to the DHL Stormers in tough conditions at Jonsson Kings Park as the visitors exacted revenge for their own loss in the first round of the Rainbow Cup SA competition.
The match was as close as the scoreline suggests and for long periods of time, particularly in the second half, there was no clear victor when the teams were deadlocked on 22-points apiece.
Two scrum penalties early in the game, one for each side, had the respective kickers testing their ranges. For Western Province, the 50m effort proved beyond his ability but there was no mistake from Curwin Bosch who put the Cell C Sharks into a three-nil lead with his 60m pin-point conversion.
Their confidence lifted, the Cell C Sharks were doing all the playing and a second scrum penalty was sent to the line. The Stormers were happy to give away penalty after penalty before earning a team warning, and eventually the relentless effort from the Cell C Sharks forwards led to Ox Nche finally getting over, the conversion adding the extras as territorial advantage paid off for a 10-0 lead after 20 minutes.
With the game taking on a kicking duel from both sides looking to play in the right areas saw the Stormers score their first try with an outstanding individual solo effort.
The visitors found their own sense of confidence and enjoyed a period of possession that eventually culminated in their second try to go in front for the first time in the game with fewer than five minutes of the half remaining.
Although the Cell C Sharks had enjoyed the lion’s share of possession – 65% to the Stormers’ 35 – and had done all the playing, the visitors had managed two strikes to take a 12-10 lead on the scoreboard.
Scrum penalties and successful defence of the attacking maul had been a strong point from the Cell C Sharks’ forwards and they would have looked to exploit more space with ball in hand in the second half.
The Stormers had their third inside the first minute of the second half to extend their lead to 10 points but the try was cancelled out after excellent work from Henco Venter to steal the ball and then Siya Kolisi made an outstanding run to get the ball behind the initial Stormers’ defence before sending Yaw Penxe away for the second try to reduce the deficit to four points with most of the half still to play.
The sublime turned into the extraordinary as the Cell C Sharks, defending again, managed to dislodge the ball in the pass and Aphelele Fassi chased it for the score that took his side back into the lead, 22-19 ahead with half an hour remaining.
With the heat picking up as the game became more and more tense, the Stormers kicked a score-equalising penalty and then on a team warning, paid the price trying to defend with Sbu Nkosi the unfortunate man to receive his marching orders.
The visitors struck a scrum penalty to take the lead with just over two minutes of a tense period in the game remaining and with time up on the clock, the Cell C Sharks bravely tried to run the ball from their 22 but could not find the gap needed to change the outcome of the game.