Jun 6 • General News, Super Rugby • 1632 Views • Comments Off on STORMERS CLINCH SA CONFERENCE IN BRUTAL DERBY DRAW

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The Stormers and the Lions couldn’t be separated in a physical encounter at DHL Newlands on Saturday, drawing 19-19.

Far from the ideal result for either side, the Lions now cannot make the Finals Series with the Stormers’ two points from this fixture meaning they are now South African Conference champions, but need a lot of results to go their way if they are to host a Semi-Final.

The loss of inspirational captain Duane Vermeulen could have rattled the Stormers but they ploughed on without him, Nizaam Carr coming in at late notice to the side and scoring a key try in the second half.

With so much riding on this fixture with one round to go the tension at Newlands before kick-off was noticeably intense.

That pre-match anticipation was matched by some epic collisions on the field from both sides, with some players forced off through injury including Demetri Catrakilis and Alwyn Hollenbach.

It’s now impossible for the Lions to top the South African Conference or make the play-offs after their draw in Cape Town and with a bye next week, but Johan Ackermann’s men have done themselves proud this season by defying expectations.

The Stormers now have a new challenge ahead of them as they await to see whether they can secure a home Semi-Final by finishing with more points than the winner of the Australian Conference after Round 18.

They must beat the Sharks and hope the Wararahs (home vs Reds) and Brumbies (home vs Crusaders) both falter.

Riding on the back of the energy from the crowd the Stormers struck first, buidling on their early territory and possession with a try for scrum-half Nic Groom.

The veteran number nine sniped down the blindside after good work from Steven Kitshoff to grab the opening score.

Having missed an early penalty attempt, Demetri Catrakilis was on the money with the conversion to give the Lions something to chase.

Naturally given the tenacity they’ve played with this year the Lions struck straight back, the power of the pack showing through the maul before Groom’s opposite man Faf de Klerk dotted own untouched in the corner and unnoticed. Jantjies converted to make it 7-7.

An excellent try from flying winger Dillyn Leyds restored the Stormers’ lead as Eben Etzebeth played his part in the build-up, bringing a roar from the home crowd as Leyds put the home side back infront.

The loss of Catrakilis to an earlier injury meant that Kurt Coleman was in charge of the conversion, but he couldn’t add the extra two.

The Lions however again responded, kicking to the corner from a penalty before Schalk van der Merwe touched down under a pile of bodies. Jantjies couldn’t convert to leave the score at 12-12.

It wouldn’t have stayed had Coleman found his range with a penalty, but he missed to leave the scores tied at half-time.

In such a tight match moments of magic required, so it was no surprise to see Cheslin Kolbe strike yet again. The mercurial full-back executed a chip and chase before finding Carr for the number eight to power his way over for try number three.

Coleman this time did deliver to make it 19-12 and set up a big finish, as both sides threw everything at each other looking for a breakthrough.

It was only 20 minutes after Carr’s score that the Lions eventually hit back, after the Stormers had lost Steven Kitshoff to the sin-bin following a string of penalties from the home side near their own line.

The Lions’ persistence paid off with a first Super Rugby try for replacement hooker Malcolm Marx, to leave the two sides level with only minutes remaining.

As the clock wound down it was the Lions on the charge with replacement and drop goal specialist Marnitz Boshoff dropping back into the pocket, but the ball was knocked on near the Stormers line by the Lions at the death as the two sides drew 19-19.

It’s a result that neither side would have wanted, with the Lions knocked out and the Stormers now waiting on results next week to see who if they can secure a home Semi.

Courtesy of SANZAR

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