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Stormers fall agonisingly short against Stade Rochelais

CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: It was another thriller between the Stormers and Stade Rochelais, but this time it was the visitors who edged the match 22-21.

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It was déjà vu at the end of Saturday’s Champions Cup Round of 16 game when the Stormers scored a late try to put themselves within a point of the French giants just like they did in the pool stage in December.

However, this time Manie Libbok could not find the direction with his conversion attempt in very windy conditions.

The Stormers had a 16-0 lead early in the second half, but several injuries disrupted their momentum and it allowed the defending champions to fight their way back into the match.

The home side opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a Libbok penalty.

The Stormers continued to apply plenty of pressure in the visitors’ half and in the 22nd minute, Will Skelton was shown a yellow card for some cynical play at a ruck.

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Libbok then increased his team’s lead to six points after a Jonathan Danty high tackle earlier in the play.

The Stormers flyhalf then produced a great run in the midfield in the build-up to the first try of the game, which was scored by scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies.

Fullback Damian Willemse also played a key role in that score with a neat flick pass.

There was a big blow for the Stormers just before half-time when Deon Fourie suffered what looked like a serious knee injury. The veteran loose forward had to be taken off the field on a medical cart.

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Before Fourie’s injury, Ben-Jason Dixon also had to leave the field.

At half-time, it was 13-0 to the Stormers.

It was more of the same from the home side at the start of the second half with Libbok pushing his team’s lead to 16 points with another penalty.

Stade Rochelais finally got on the scoreboard in the 50th minute when Louis Penverne was driven over the tryline. Antoine Hastoy added the extra two points with the conversion.

The pressure was mounting for the Stormers and after several penalties, Hastoy eventually reduced the home side’s lead to six points with a penalty.

The Stormers then lost Hacjivah Dayimani and Salmaan Moerat to bad head knocks which forced a major shuffle in the forward pack. It also came when Stade Rochelais were getting the ascendency in the match.

Things got worse for the home side when Marcel Theunissen was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements and not long after that Stade Rochelais were in front with a Grégory Alldritt try and a Hastoy conversion.

The Stormers thought they regained the lead in the 65th minute with a Willemse try. However, the TMO spotted a knock-on by Jantjies in the build-up to that score.

The visitors then silenced the crowd once again when Joel Sclavi powered his way over the tryline with the help of his teammates in the pack. Hastoy could not find the direction with his conversion kick.

The Stormers were given hope when their former teammate Dillyn Leyds was shown a yellow card for cynical play in the 76th minute.

With the clock winding down the Stormers applied plenty of pressure and they managed to get the try they needed when Hartzenberg collected the ball from a crossfield kick before sprinting over the tryline.

However, Libbok pushed his conversion attempt wide, which ended the Stormers’ Champions Cup dream.

Man of the match: Evan Roos was a powerhouse for the Capetonians, while Damian Willemse showed some neat touches with the ball. For the visitors, Grégory Alldritt led from the front and scored one of his team’s tries. However, the award goes to scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who made excellent decisions at the breakdown and he was a handful when he ran at the Stormers.

The scorers:

For Stormers:
Tries: Jantjies, Hartzenberg
Con: Libbok
Pens: Libbok 3

For La Rochelle:
Tries: Penverne, Alldritt, Sclavi
Cons: Hastoy 2
Pen: Hastoy

Yellow cards: Will Skelton (Stade Rochelais 22′ – cynical play, diving over a ruck); Marcel Theunissen (Stormers, 61′ – repeated infringements); Dillyn Leyds (Stade Rochelais, 76′ – cynical play, slowing the ball down)

Teams:

Stormers: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Ben-Jason Dixon, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Salmaan Moerat (captain), 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Adre Smith, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Marcel Theunissen, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Ben Loader.

La Rochelle: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ulupano Seuteni, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Antoine Hastoy, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Grégory Alldritt (captain), 7 Levani Botia, 6 Judicaël Cancoriet, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Louis Penverne.
Replacements: 16 Quentin Lespiaucq, 17 Alexandre Kaddouri, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Thomas Lavault, 20 Paul Boudehent, 21 Yoan Tanga, 22 Teddy Iribaren, 23 Ihaia West.

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales (England), John Meredith (England)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

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