Stormers edge Bulls to clinch inaugural URC trophy
MATCH REPORT: The Stormers have claimed the 2022 United Rugby Championship title after they beat the Bulls 18-13 on Saturday in Cape Town.
*To recap all the action CLICK HERE!!!
It was the eleventh consecutive win for the Stormers and their third against their traditional rivals this season.
John Dobson’s men – hosting the final by virtue of their higher league finish – trailed 3-7 at half-time having been comfortably second best in an opening period that saw Harold Vorster score an early try for the Bulls.
However, Evan Roos touched down early in the second half and Andre-Hugo Venter added a second shortly after Cornal Hendricks had been sin-binned for a high tackle.
Bulls flyhalf Chris Smith proved more reliable from the tee on the night than opposite number Manie Libbok, but it mattered little in the end and the latter’s drop-goal completed the scoring late on.
The result marked an 11th win in a row for the Stormers, who never lifted the title during their time in Super Rugby – beaten by the Bulls in their only final in 2010.
The Bulls took little over two minutes to strike the first blow at the Cape Town Stadium.
Johan Grobbelaar capitalised on a brief moment of confusion in the Stormers defence to embark on a penetrating break before offloading to Vorster to wriggle over.
Smith added the extras and the Bulls continued to look the sharper and more dangerous of the two sides throughout the opening quarter.
Libbok was the Stormers’ hero in their 17-15 Final Four victory over Ulster last weekend, kicking the winning conversion at the death. However, he had missed all three of his attempts at goal prior to that point and pulled his first effort of the night wide of the posts in the 33rd minute on Saturday.
To the relief of the home fans, Libbok did find the target with his next attempt, reducing the arrears to four on the stroke of half-time.
The concern for the Bulls at the break will have been their inability to fully capitalise on their control of the opening period and, after briefly restoring their seven-point advantage with a Smith penalty at the start of the second, the Stormers were soon level.
In-form Roos took the ball at pace, bounced through a tackle and stretched to touch down, with Libbok converting.
The Stormers were on top and were boosted further when a somewhat chaotic passage of play ended with Hendricks in the bin.
A second Stormers try quickly followed, with Venter finding his way over from a line-out maul just short of the hour.
Libbok could not add the conversion and Smith cut the gap to two with a penalty. However, that was the sum of the Bulls’ late response and Libbok’s drop-goal saw the Stormers home.
Man of the Match
What an end to the season it’s been for Deon Fourie.
At 35 years of age he earned a call-up to the Springboks squad last weekend and could make his Test debut in next month’s home series against Wales.
The form that earned that call-up was in evidence in the final – his 100th outing in a Stormers jersey.
His determined carrying helped bring the hosts back into the match and his three turnovers were a match-high figure.
Play of the match
Roos’ determination to ground the ball for the Stormers’ opener deserves credit, but the Bulls’ early touchdown was arguably the try of the match.
The home defence seemed to lose track of Grobbelaar at the back of a maul for a moment and the hooker capitalised with a piercing run before sending Vorster over.
Tries: Roos, Venter
Drop Goal: Libbok
Pens: Smith 2
Stormers: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 JJ Kotze, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Nama Xaba, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Sacha Mngomezulu.
Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Cornal Hendricks, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Izak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Simphiwe Mantanzima, 18 Robert Hunt, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 WJ Steenkamp, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 David Kriel.
Referee: Andy Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)