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Stormers blow big lead in thrilling draw with Leinster

URC REPORT: The Stormers blew a 17-point lead on their way to a 22-all draw with Leinster at the RDS Arena in Dublin on Friday.

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The Capetonians were outstanding in the first half, but they could not maintain their momentum in the second half.

A strong wind blowing across the stadium played a role in that momentum shift. The Stormers had it behind them in the first half but they battled against it in the second half, especially when it came to the kicking game.

Converted tries from Manie Libbok and Suleiman Hartzenberg and a penalty from Libbok gave the visitors a healthy lead.

However, the Irish giants staged a fightback and they scored 22 points before Clayton Blommetjies levelled the scores with a try with just 10 minutes on the clock.

Libbok and Harry Byrne both squandered potential match-winning kicks.

Byrne went closest to deciding this top-of-the-table contest, hitting the post with a 76th-minute penalty after Libbok had failed to convert Blommetjies’ levelling try.

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Leinster are guaranteed top spot in the United Rugby Championship despite seeing their 15-match winning run in the competition come to an end.

Libbok’s seventh-minute penalty rewarded the Stormers’ business-like start. They had captain Steven Kitshoff among their returning Springboks.

Having missed a drop-goal, Libbok showed his attacking class with a slick 25th-minute try, sidestepping inside both Liam Turner and Scott Penny to go in under the posts and convert.

Just as Leinster were building phases, Libbok then intercepted a loose pass to dart past halfway before passing the ball to Hartzenberg to finish off under the posts.

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Nonetheless, nice hands from Max Deegan played in prop Michael Milne for a well-worked five-pointer, with the Stormers leaking a number of penalties near their tryline.

Leinster dominated the start of the second half, with Penny piling over from a maul with Byrne’s missed conversion from out wide leaving it 17-10 in the Stormers’ favour.

Rob Russell prevented a certain try with a turnover penalty and then popped up with his side’s third score, Blommetjies making a mess of a kick receipt before Milne put the wing over in the corner.

Following a second 50:22 kick from flyhalf Byrne, Hartzenberg was sin-binned for infringing at a maul. No.8 Deegan duly barged over for Byrne to make it 22-17 in Leinster’s favour.

On their Dublin debut, the Stormers’ big pack forced a series of penalties. With 12 minutes remaining, a brilliantly-weighted kick from Libbok was grounded by Blommetjies ahead of Dave Kearney, yet neither No.10 could find the killer blow.

Player of the Match

There were a number of candidates from both teams, Manie Libbok was central to the Stormers’ impressive opening 40 minutes. Damian Willemse and Deon Fourie were also heavily involved. However, standing out during Leinster’s four-try fightback was try-scoring flank Scott Penny. He also had a couple of key ground-gaining runs and defended smartly when the Irish province were under pressure.

Play of the Match

Rob Russell’s ninth try of the campaign was all about the build-up play. The wind contributed to fullback Clayton Blommetjies’ fumble, Liam Turner and then John McKee both straightening up the attack as Leinster looked to take full advantage of the error. Ross Molony sat Blommetjies down with a big carry, and Milne was first in at the ruck to feed the ball wide for Russell to go over in the right corner.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Milne, Penny, Russell, Mckee
Con: Byrne

For Stormers:
Tries: Libbok, Hartzenberg, Blommetjies
Cons: Libbok 2
Pen: Libbok

Yellow card: Suleiman Hartzenberg (Stormers, 59′ – cynical play, in from the side at a maul)

Teams:

Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Rob Russell, 13 Liam Turner, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Ala’alatoa, 2 John McKee, 1 Michael Milne.
Replacements: 16 Lee Barron, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Vakhtang Abdaladze, 19 Brian Deeny, 20 Will Connors, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Charlie Tector, 23 Ben Brownlee.

Stormers: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Ben-Jason Dixon, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements: 16 JJ Kotze, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Willie Engelbrecht, 21 Marcel Theunissen, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Jean-Luc du Plessis.

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Peter Martin (Ireland), Keane Davison (Ireland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)

Additional source: @URCOfficial

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