The Stormers produced their best performance of the season to beat the Brumbies 31-11 in an intriguing Super Rugby clash in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Stormers led from start to finish, outscoring the Australasian Group leaders three tries to one, thanks to a late surge against a Brumbies side that played the last 15 minutes with 14 men.
The result means the Sharks, the South Africa group leaders, are now the only unbeaten team left in the competition.
The Brumbies had come into the game as the form team of the tournament and were still in the contest deep into the final quarter, but a red card handed to replacement hooker Josh Mann-Rea took the wind out of their sails.
The Stormers deservedly led 9-5 at the interval, having played some of the smartest rugby we’ve seen this season. Once again, the influence of their outstanding second row was telling – both at the set piece and open play – while the improved tactical kicking made sure the hosts dominated the territory stats.
Kurt Coleman had his best ever game in a Stormers jersey, his kicking from hand and from the tee putting his team in the right places, both on the field and the scoreboard.
The Brumbies scored the only try of the first half though, via Henry Speight, illustrating just how good they are at taking their chances.
Siya Kolisi crossed midway through the second half for the hosts before Dillyn Leyds and Vincent Koch scored in the dying minutes to seal an excellent win.
A strong start by the home side saw Kurt Coleman open the scoring after the Brumbies were forced offside. A couple of clever kicks and a lineout steal by Eben Etzebeth boded well.
The Brumbies were being made to do most of the playing, but in the wrong parts of the field. Coleman doubled the lead with his second penalty – this time against Stephen Moore for going off his feet- leaving the Stormers 6-0 up as the game reached the end of the first quarter.
The Brumbies were first over the whitewash, thanks to a David Pocock turnover on the deck. Off the back of the ensuing lineout, Tevita Kuridrani sliced through the Stormers midfield – hitting a gap left by Juan de Jongh – before sending a fabulous long pace wide to Speight, who charged home. Christian Lealiifano missed the conversion though.
The Stormers pushed back hard, threatening Brumbies’ line with a strong drive. Joe Tomane swung his handbag a little too vigorously at Leyds right in front of the posts, handing Coleman an easy opportunity to put the home side back in front, and Stormers kicker duly obliged just before halftime.
Lealiifano hit the target for the first time in three attempts soon after the break from a scrum penalty, making it a one-point game.
The Stormers turned it up a notch though with Kolisi’s try from short range finishing off an impressive build up. Coleman’s conversion gave his team some breathing room at 16-8.
De Jongh was caught offside, allowing Lealiifano to reduce the deficit from in front on the hour mark but the Brumbies’ cause was dealt a hefty blow when Mann-Rea was sent off for punching Oli Kebble off the ball.
Coleman restored the eight-point lead from the tee. The Stormer had control of game but had to wait until the 76th minute for Leyds to dive into the corner. To be honest, he was lucky to be awarded the try by the TMO after the cover tackle seemed to have dislodged the ball.
Koch stretched out an arm for the third try after the final hooter with Jean-Luc du Plessis slotting his first points via the conversion to add some icing to the cake.
Tries: Kolisi, Leyds, Koch
Cons: Coleman, du Plessis
Pens: Coleman 4
Pens: Lealiifano 2
Red Card: Mann-Rea
Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (cc), 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe (cc), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Leolin Zas
Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano (cc), 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (cc), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jordan Smile, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Robbie Coleman, 23 Nigel Ah Wong
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Marius Jonker