Stormers beat Leinster to set up thrilling climax to the league stages
The Stormers set up a potentially thrilling climax to the league stages in the United Rugby Championship (URC) when they downed Leinster at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
They beat their under strength but stubbornly redoubtable opponents 20-13 to throw open the race for league honours later in May.
Though they beat Leinster their failure to secure a bonus point while falling just short of denying the visitors one, could prove telling in the final analysis.
The Sharks have now gone above the Stormers on points table.
The URC has one round of league matches remaining with the Stormers, Sharks, Bulls and Lions all travelling north of the equator.
On Saturday however, the Stormers had to dig deep to down Leinster.
Well organised and structured, the Irish team asked uncomfortable questions of the hosts and led 6-3 at the break.
Like against the Sharks a week earlier they again found ways of negating their opponents' threats.
Resourceful and full of resolve Leinster's young guns held the hosts over a barrel for the longest time but slowly but surely the hosts firmed their grip on proceedings.
The toil of the Stormers' forwards eventually took its toll after a first half in which the home team met little reward.
Against a team that relishes close combat Steven Kitshoff's warriors kept banging away and eventually brute force brought the desired results.
The back row of Deon Fourie, Hacjivah Dayimani and Evan Roos battled bravely but it was the Stormers' tight five with Kitshoff in the vanguard that helped break the visitors' resolve.
The match could have gone on a different trajectory had the Stormers been awarded a try in the opening minutes.
The hosts made a scintillating start but Ruhan Nel's effort was ruled out.
The try was disallowed for crossing. It was a contentious decision which robbed the Stormers of an early foothold in the game.
The Stormers' intent was clear though.
The Leinster line-out showed some early jitters and they resorted to clever variations. They were initially also prone to error on the deck.
The Stormers' accuracy in that area helped them set up good field position but they did not make headway on the scoreboard.
A Manie Libbok penalty was the only reward they earned inside the first 20 minutes but the visitors with two rare incursions into Stormers' territory walked away with two of their own.
The Stormers made some uncharacteristic handling errors but that was largely due to the heat applied by the fired up and unremitting Leinster defence.
It was in midfield in particular where they drew Stormers' imprecision.
Increasingly the Stormers tried different forms of deception when they took the ball up. Support runners coming in on the angle helped get them over the advantage line inside the first five minutes after the restart.
From a resulting penalty the Stormers opted to kick for the corner flag which soon led to Leinster having a player sent to the sin bin. The hosts kept banging away through Kitshoff and Roos, eventually creating enough space for Gelant to scoot over in the corner.
The Stormers, sensing the visitors' vulnerabilities again swept up field through Libbok who released Seabelo Senatla who put a foot in touch thanks to a last-gasp tackle.
A few minutes later however the Stormers, off a solid scrum base, hit to the right and again put the winger into space. This time he stayed inside the confines of the field to stretch the Stormers' lead.
Leinster almost immediately showed their immense resolve by pinning the Stormers back but a penalty try after a marauding maul helped the Stormers grab the lead that they did not relinquish.
Stormers — Tries: Warrick Gelant, Seabelo Senatla, a penalty try. Penalty: Manie Libbok.
Leinster — Try: Ed Byrne. Penalties: Cairan Frawley (2). Conversion: Harry Byrne.
In an earlier match at Kings Park the Sharks prevailed 41-21 over Connacht in a match littered with penalties.
The Sharks however offered more in attack and ran in tries through lock Gerbrandt Grobler (2), centre Marius Louw, hooker Bongi Mbonambi and lock Le Roux Roets.
The win very much kept the Sharks in the hunt for SA conference honours.
At Ellis Park the Lions gave their captain a home ground farewell when they downed top Italian team Benetton 37-29.
Skipper Burger Odendaal will continue his rugby at Wasps later this year and his teammates responded by rebounding from their disappointing loss to Connacht last weekend.
The Lions scored tries through Ruben Schoeman, Morne van den Berg, Stean Pienaar and Jordan Hendrikse.
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