Stormers top table as Blues comeback fizzles out
STORMERS 27 BLUES 17
Stormers hooker Tiaan Liebenberg breaks a tackle. Photo: Getty Images
CAPE TOWN: The Stormers climbed to the top of the Super Rugby table on Friday after a workmanlike 27-17 victory over New Zealand visitors the Blues at Newlands.
It was the third consecutive home victory for the Cape Town franchise since the championship started last month and four points from a bye gives them 16 four rounds into the season.
Blues winger Ben Lam sprints down the touchline. Photo: Getty Images
That is two points more than the Chiefs of New Zealand, who were dramatic 29-22 home winners over the Brumbies in the only other Friday fixture.
Fullback Joe Pietersen kicked five penalties and a conversion from eight shots at goal while Springbok backs Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers crossed for tries.
Centre Benson Stanley and prop Charlie Faumuina scored a try each for the Blues with fly-half Gareth Anscombe converting both and full-back Lachie Munro slotting a penalty.
It was a game of three phases with the Stormers dominating the opening half in perfect cool, still early autumn conditions and building a 17-3 half-time advantage.
The Blues had vowed to win the game as a tribute to former All Blacks skipper Jock Hobbs, who died of cancer this week, and hit back after the break to cut the gap to just seven points with 15 minutes left.
But the visitors, who upset the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend by leading from start to finish, could not maintain the momentum and a Pietersen penalty was the lone score of the closing stages.
"Had the match carried on for another five minutes we could have been in trouble," confessed Stormers centre, skipper and official man of the match De Villiers.
"We are a work-in-progress side with the backs and forwards combining much better tonight than they did against the Sharks a couple of weeks ago. My body aches just at the thought of two South African derbies coming up."
Blues captain and hooker Keven Mealamu said: Falling 21 points behind left us with too steep a mountain to climb. We have had lots of injury problems this season, but I trust the guys who have come in."
A couple of Pietersen penalties plus a Habana try after debutant wing Ben Lam was caught out by the bounce of a box kick gave the Stormers a 11-point lead before Munro narrowed the gap.
Pietersen kicked two more penalties before half-time as the Blues struggled at scrum time and when he converted De Villiers' try the home team were sitting pretty with a 24-3 lead 12 minutes into the second half.
Back come the Blues with two converted tries, but hopes of a thrilling climax did not materialise and the Stormers, semi-finalists and runners-up in the past two championships, finished stronger.
STORMERS 27 (Jean De Villiers, Bryan Habana tries Joe Pietersen con 5 pens) bt BLUES 17 (Charlie Faumuina, Benson Stanley tries Gareth Anscombe 2 cons Lachie Munro pen) at Newlands Rugby Stadium. Referee: Glen Jackson.