The DHL Stormers fought back strongly in the middle stages but ultimately a 26-point blitz in the opening 20 minutes proved too much for them as the Crusaders scored a comfortable 45-28 win in their Vodacom Super Rugby match in Christchurch yesterday.
The score-line will suggest it was a one-sided game, and it was.
There was never any prospect of the Stormers winning it in a clash where they struggled at the start to handle the intense pressure applied by the competition champions and made precisely the sort of mistakes that you can’t make against the Crusaders if you want to be competitive.
Despite that, the Cape side will leave Christchurch in a much more positive mind-space than seemed likely when the Crusaders were on their try-scoring rampage in the first 20 minutes.
It started badly for the Stormers when they lost their first lineout throw, and just like was the case when they lost their last one against the Waratahs the previous week, it proved costly.
The Crusaders used the opportunity offered them by their lineout steal in the opening two minutes to set up camp in Stormers territory.
There was an air of inevitability about their first try, which came courtesy of a loping long pass to George Bridge from Jack Mayhew on the Stormers line, and the left wing crashed over in the sixth minute.
Four minutes later the hooker Cody Taylor went over in the same place.
Lesson No 2 for Stormers: You don’t cough up ball against New Zealand teams and not expect to be punished.
You also don’t surrender first phase ball, and by this point the Stormers had seen a second lineout go against the throw.
The Stormers did have a few scoring opportunities immediately after that, with a little break from Raymond Rhule promising some profit and then a strong run from Damian de Allende nearly saw the Stormers across the line.
But again the golden rule that you are patient and hold onto possession seemed to have been forgotten, and when the Crusaders did get hold of the ball they ended up transferring play back into Stormers territory, and this time it was openside flank newcomer Billy Harmon who scored.
The conversion made it 19 points to the Crusaders after just 17 minutes and the better than a point-a-minute scoring pace continued when a comedy of Stormers errors saw the Crusaders attack across almost the length of the field for scrumhalf Bryn Hall to score.
It was 26-0 with a quarter of the game gone and the Stormers were staring down both barrels.
At that point even last year’s 50-pointer at the same venue seemed like a close game compared to what it felt like was coming.
Full marks to them for how they played after that, and Crusaders skipper Sam Whitelock readily admitted afterwards that the Stormers had found some weak chinks in his team’s armour.
The 26-19 scoreline in favour of the Stormers over that 60 minute period reflects that, and while in truth the match was won and lost by then, the Stormers can at least take some positive lessons from it, one of them being what you can achieve if you display some patience and retain composure.
It wasn’t a great night collectively for the Stormers but there were several individual players who should have felt they advanced their reputations, among them all the props that were used, lock Schickerling, the hard working Cobus Wiese, who really did show up well, and at the back Damian de Allende looks like he is regaining his old form.
Crusaders 45 – Tries: George Bridge 2, Cody Taylor, Billy Harmon, Bryn Hall, Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mounga; Conversions: Richie Mounga 5.
DHL Stormers 28 – Tries: JC Janse van Rensburg, Wilco Louw, JD Schickerling and Steven Kitshoff; Conversions: SP Marais 3 and George Whitehead. – Supersport
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