Nel double seals SA conference for Stormers
MATCH REPORT: The Stormers left it late, but two second-half tries by centre Ruhan Nel ensured the Stormers clinched top spot in the South African conference of the United Rugby Championship.
The second of Nel’s tries, with a minute left on the clock, sealed a 26-21 bonus-point win for the Cape Town franchise over the Scarlets in Llanelli on Saturday.
The result also means Scarlets lost out to Ospreys in the race for top spot in the Welsh conference, the losing bonus point not enough to book their spot in the European Cup for next season.
After a nervous opening quarter, the Stormers settled down – their powerful forwards getting into their collective stride with some powerful raids.
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Apart from Nel’s brace in Llanelli, Leolin Zas and Evan Roos also touched down for the Stormers, who have booked home ground advantage in the quarterfinals. Manie Libbok kicked six points for the visitors – three conversions.
Johnny Williams and Ryan Conbeer scored tries for the Scarlets, with Sam Costelow kicking 11 points.
The Scarlets drew first blood through Costelow’s boot before a lovely chip over the top of a blitzing Stormers defence by Gareth Davies was gathered by club captain Jonathan Davies, who put Williams over for a tremendous try.
The Stormers hit back when Hacjivah Dayimani brushed aside a few defenders before putting Zas over for his 11th try of the season – a URC-best figure.
Libbok converted, but Costelow nicked three points back after the visitors conceded a penalty from the breakdown.
The Stormers lay siege to the Scarlets try line in the closing stages of the first half as they attempted to batter the West Walians into submission with their powerful ball carriers.
A stolen line-out from Aaron Shingler and a turnover from Liam Williams seemed to keep the South African side at bay, but impressive number eight Roos finally broke the Scarlets defence as he powered over from close range.
Libbok converted, meaning the Scarlets held a slender 16-14 lead at the interval.
The Stormers took the lead two minutes into the second half when Nel hit a tremendous angle to score.
Peel’s side tried desperately to get back into the game and very nearly broke the Stormers line when Rhys Patchell surged clear, but Deon Fourie won a crucial penalty at the breakdown. Fourie soon found himself in the sin bin after he received a yellow card for a high tackle on Kieran Hardy.
The Scarlets kept applying pressure and Conbeer went over for an excellent try. Liam Williams missed the conversion to leave the scores level at 21-21 with eight minutes remaining.
The Scarlets had their opportunities, but Nel ghosted his way over the line at the death to win the game for the Stormers.
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DHL STORMERS ARE THE SOUTH AFRICAN SHIELD CHAMPIONS ⚡️
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Player of the match
Roos put the Stormers on the front foot with a match-leading nine successful carries, while he also claimed a try.
Play of the match
A lovely chip over the top by Gareth Davies was gathered by Jonathan Davies, who drew in the last defender to put Johnny Williams over for a cracking score.
Tries: Williams, Conbeer
Pens: Costelow 3
For the Stormers
Tries: Zas, Roos, Nel 2
Cons: Libbok 3
Yellow card: Deon Fourie (Stormers, 60 – foul play, dangerous tackle)
Scarlets: 15 Tom Rogers; 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Jac Price, 4 Tom Price, 3 Javan Sebastian, 2 Shaun Evans, 1 Steff Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Daf Hughes, 17 Phil Price, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Morgan Jones, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Joe Roberts.
Stormers: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Jean-Jacques Kotze, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Kuyenzeka Xaba, 21 Marcel Theunissen, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Cornel Smit.
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Gareth Newman (Wales), Rhys Jones (Wales)
TMO: Wayne Davies (Wales)
* Additional reporting by @URCOfficial