The Stormers came from behind to beat the Blues 30-22 at Newlands in Cape Town, extending their lead in the Africa 1 Conference and ending their disastrous last month of results.
Robbie Fleck’s team turned around a nine-point deficit, scoring 17 unanswered points, as they beat the Auckland team for the fifth time in six encounters, in a six-try thriller.
The Blues scored two tries after Eben Etzebeth was yellow-carded in the middle of the first-half, however, Siya Kolisi’s try after the siren, brought his team back, giving the hosts hope – and more importantly, momentum.
Kolisi was outstanding, leading from the front, the captain made two crucial tackles and turnovers, one of which changed the game.
While Dillyn Leyds moved to standoff, in the absence of Jean-Luc du Plessis, Robert du Preez and Kurt Coleman, and did not look out of place at all. He had a great game, scoring a try and was a constant threat with the ball in his hands.
The game turned on the Springbok’s yellow card but, conversely, it turned again, this time against the tourists.
Matt Duffie, who was sent off for two yellow cards, left his team without a man for the last 12 minutes and the Kiwis wilted under the pressure, as they tried to hold on.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe came off the bench and scored straight after the winger’s red, SP Marais, who scored 15 points with the boot, kicked the conversion and a 77th-minute penalty, to make the game safe.
The Stormers had lost their last four matches – the last three to New Zealand teams – while the Blues had won their last three matches, which set this match up nicely.
The Cape side started the tournament well. However, after beating the Chiefs in an epic match at Newlands, they capitulated on tour, conceding 184 points and 28 tries.
They lost and lost badly; going down 57-24 gainst the Crusaders, 57-14 versus the Highlanders and 41-22 to the Hurricanes.
Their record against the visitors is good though, winning four of their last five against the Blues and four of the last five games at home, while not losing back-to-back games at home since 2011.
Marais’s early penalty put his team 3-0 up before the first major incident, in a game full of them, took place.
The Stormers started well and had the Blues under the cosh. They should have capitalised on Duffie’s first yellow card after repeated infringements on their try-line.
However, despite the extra man, the Stormers could not breach the goal-line and the Blues turned the ball over, went up the field and scored twice, to take a 3-12 lead with 14 men.
During the 10 minutes with a man less, the Blues took control. Etzebeth was carded for retaliating after a scuffle with Akira Ioane and Sonny Bill Williams.
The Blues took a scrum, powered forward, sent the ball to George Moala scored, who ran through a big gap, to score under the poles. Piers Francis adds the extras.
Soon, it was double trouble, as James Parsons crashed over, to finish a stunning move between himself and his fellow forwards.
Sonny Bill started the attack with two crash-ball runs. Blake Gibson looked to have lost the ball after Augustine Pulu’s offload, but he juggled and flicked the loose ball to Charlie Faumuina.
The big man passed a lovely ball to the skipper, who gathered and ran in untouched in the corner. Francis missed the conversion, but the Blues had total control.
The tourists went close again, but could not add to their lead. It proved costly, as the home side found some inner strength and fought back on the stroke of half-time.
The Stormers went through several multi-phase plays before Ofa Tu’ungafasi was pinged for a dangerous tackle on Shaun Treeby. Marais kicks to touch, and from there, they managed to turn a nine-point gap to two.
It was the Man-of-the-match, captain fantastic, Kolisi who barged over.
Leyds made the mini-break and looked to have scored by placing the ball on the base of the left-hand upright. The ball was recycled quickly by the forwards and the skipper crashed over.
Marais added the extras and the game was back in the balance.
The Blues struck first through Gibson. Steven Luatua was tackled short, Sonny Bill picked up the ball, spun out of Oliver Kebble’s tackle, bounced another from Frans Malherbe and offloaded to the flanker to score. Too easy; 10-19.
Francis added the conversion and the Blues extended their first-half lead to nine points, again, but then the first-five went down.
He ran into Kolbe’s tackle, but it was Shaun Treeby’s high hit, that knocked him out. The game changed once more.
Kobus van Dyk ripped the ball from Charlie Faumuina on his try-line to save the day.
Then, the Blues went wide with Sonny Bill from the lineout, but the Stormers, though Marais, stopped the Heavyweight boxer with an NFL-style strip-sack from behind.
Another chance was gone for Umaga’s men. Marais kicked his second penalty to make it 13-19 after 54 minutes.
Leyds, in for the two injured flyhalves, had a wonderful game. The youngster made several breaks and was the architect of most of the attacks by Fleck’s side.
As the game entered the final quarter, some quick-thinking by the 24-year-old sparked the Stormers into gear.
The Stormers went 16 phases, bashing it up the field with their ball carriers. The Blues met them with some big hits.
Seabelo Senatla lost the ball, but the Cape side was awarded another penalty. Leyds took it quickly and barged over between Gibson and another defender. Superb.
Marais’ conversion saw the hosts take a one-point 20-19 lead with 19 minutes to play.
Then came Duffie’s moment of madness, the winger flopped on Cheslin Kolbe when waiting for the wing to get up and tackling him out, would have been the right – and smart – thing to do.
The Stormers pounded the Blues’ goal-line, eventually, the dam wall broke, along with the Aucklanders’ resistance.
Notshe scored after a long TMO consultation, Marais kicked his third conversion and the home team had gone from 10-19 down, to 27-19 up, with 10 minutes left on the clock.
The Blues needed two scores and took the points when Bryn Gatland kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit to five.
However, the Stormers did not bend or break; Marais added the final dagger, moments later, and the Stormers’ recent nightmare against New Zealand teams, was over.
Final score: Stormers 30 (10) Blues 22 (12)
Tries – Kolisi, Leyds, Notshe
Pen – Marais (3)
Con – Marais (3)
Cards – Etzebeth (Yellow, 21st minute)
Tries – Moala, Parsons, Gibson
Pen – Gatland
Con – Francis (2)
Cards – Duffie (2 Yellow Cards: 12th minute and 68th minute – Red)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Ref 1: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 2: Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
15 Sarel Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Dillyn Leyds, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Oliver Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Alister Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Damian de Allende.
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Michael Collins