Super 14 - Round 6 Review
Stormers tame Cheetahs
March 20, 2010
Schalk Burger's physicality helped the Stormers to their two-try win over the Cheetahs © Getty Images
The Stormers maintained their winning form with a strong performance to tame the Cheetahs at Newlands with a 21-8 win.
The southerners' victory over their South African rivals was based primarily on defence and the score taking of Joe Pietersen who notched up 13 of their points total from fullback. Some old failings returned to haunt the Stormers who failed to pick up a try-scoring bonus point with just two tries.
Pietersen kicked his side into a 6-0 lead with early penalties, before he added a try to his cap as he came into the backline on a good line and crossed for the try, Meyer Bosman pulled a try back for the Bloemfontein based outfit who trailed 13-5 at the break. Naas Oliver dropped a goal to narrow the gap, but Jaque Fourie crossed for a try after good work from Schalk Burger to continue the hosts' superiority.
That, coupled with a penalty from Willem de Waal gave the Stormers 19 minutes to score two tries, but they had to settle for four points.
Earlier, Todd Blackadder's decision to rest six stars from his Crusaders against the Lions paid off as his side secured a bonus point 46-19 victory, but not before the visitors threatened a major upset at AMI Stadium.
Saturday's first match was predicted to be an avalanche of points in the direction of the home side, even with the likes of Dan Carter and four All Blacks forwards being saved for more difficult opponents than the lowly Lions.
That proved to be the case in the end but the Crusaders were flattered by some late tries after the Lions had remained in the contest until the final quarter. Sean Maitland grabbed a double including the crucial opening and bonus point tries, while Colin Slade deputised for Carter with aplomb, kicking 21 points in the process.
Maitland burned impressive American No.8 Todd Clever for pace out wide to get the scoring started, but the Lions, who tend to start with a desperate energy before petering out, hit back through hooker Hannes Franklin who sneaked straight through the middle of a lazy defence.
Franklin's opposite number Ti'i Paulo then made his own bust in the 24th minute to put flanker Jonathan Poff, in the side for rested George Whitelock, into space. Poff still had to show some pace and agility for a big unit to beat two men and score.
Burton Francis, in at No.10 for the dropped Carlos Spencer, excelled from the kicking tee in his ongoing battle with Slade to keep the Lions in touch, but Adam Whitelock's try in the 60th minute made the result safe. Maitland secured the bonus point out wide before Willie Heinz took a quick tap after the hooter and grabbed a cherry-on-top try for the high-flying Crusaders, who stay in touch with the Bulls at the summit.
In the day's second game, the Sharks finally broke their duck with a 30-16 victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin. It marked the first success in six matches for the South Africans this season and came at the expense of a Highlanders team now boasting a similarly mediocre one-win, five-loss record.
The result was only confirmed two minutes from fulltime when Sharks centre Adrian Jacobs grabbed an intercept try to make the match safe for his side. That came barely 90 seconds after Highlanders replacement wing Fetu'u Vainikolo was denied a try by the television official following a sweet backline move featuring the other wing Ben Smith.
Repeated replays were required before Vainikolo was ruled to have grounded the ball just short of the line and the Sharks made the most of the reprieve. The Sharks had led 23-9 at one stage following a fine try to wing Stefan Terblanche before the Highlanders finally found the tryline themselves thanks the Smith's strength in the 68th minute when the home side attacked down the short side from a scrum.
The Sharks had led 10-6 at half-time after defending stoutly and living off scraps of possession. The Highlanders won a flood of ball and dominated territory but had only two Dagg penalties to show for their exertions as their play was riddled by handling errors. They lacked the continuity required to finish off promising moves and were galled to concede a try on the only occasion the South Africans visited their 22 in the opening 40 minutes.
That came in the 23rd minute when hooker Bismarck du Plessis crossed after sharp leadup work by Keegan Daniel and Ruan Pienaar, the latter of whom ended the match with 15 points from his goalkicking. Aside from that the Sharks were deployed very much on a defensive brief for the duration of the first half, a role they stuck to with such rigidity that the Highlanders could not manage even a single try despite spending plenty of time hot on attack.
Elsewhere on Saturday, the Waratahs edged out the Western Force with a 14-10 victory in Perth that lifted them into the top four. The Tahs' Berrick Barnes and the Force's James O'Connor traded early penalties before a try from winger Drew Mitchell edged the visitors ahead. Back cam the Force with a try of their own after an intercept by winger Scott Staniforth and the conversion from O'Connor saw them take a narrow 10-8 lead into the break.
But the Waratahs regained the lead in the second half courtesy of two penalties from fly-half Daniel Halangahu, who took over the kicking duties from a out-of-sorts Barnes. The Force raised their game in the final quarter with fly-half David Hill going close but they were reppeatedly frustrated by a well-disciplined Waratahs defence and referee Jaco Peyper. The Tahs' fourth win of the season and third on the trot allowed them to leapfrog the Brumbies into the play-off places, while the Force remain rooted to the bottom of the table with just one bonus point to show from five games.
The Blues edged out the Brumbies 39-34 in a Super 14 thriller at Eden Park on Friday thanks to an early second half blitz when they scored four tries in 14 minutes. Rene Ranger was the star at outside centre and he touched down once while Joe Rokocoko grabbed a double. Brumbies flyhalf Matt Giteau out-kicked counterpart Stephen Brett 19-14 on the scoreboard but it was Brett's late drop-goal that effectively made the victory safe. The hosts out-Brumbied the Brumbies at times, playing a disciplined, controlled brand of rugby and taking the right options at the right time to capitalise on field position.
Salesi Ma'afu and Rokocoko traded early tries before Giteau's left boot took the visitors out to a 16-10 lead at the break. But scores by Ranger, who was busting tackles all night, Benson Stanley, Rokocoko again after a classy cross-field kick by Brett, and Isaia Toeava early in the second half rewarded a flawless period by the Blues.
The Brumbies were patient though and launched a fightback with two penalties and a try to Huia Edmonds in the 59th minute to get it back to 36-27. The Blues held on strong until five minutes from time when replacement scrumhalf Patrick Phibbs wrestled the ball to the ground from Rudi Wulf's desperate hold-up attempt.
With the lead cut to two, the Blues didn't panic and played field position expertly. They launched a sustained attack on the Brumbies line but when the forwards couldn't crash through the ever-organised defence, Brett took the ball and slotted a drop-goal from right in front to ensure to take the margin to a try - a miracle the Australian side couldn't produce in the dying seconds.