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Stormers clinch inaugural URC title despite slow start against the Bulls

By PA
Stormers' Evan Roos is tackled during the United Rugby Championship (URC) final rugby union match between Stormers (South Africa) and Bulls (South Africa), at Cape Town Stadium on June 18, 2022, in Cape Town. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)

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The Stormers clinched the inaugural United Rugby Championship title by overcoming a slow start to earn an 18-13 win over the Bulls in Saturday’s Grand Final in Cape Town.

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John Dobson’s men – hosting the final by virtue of their higher league finish – trailed 7-3 at half-time having been comfortably second best in an opening period that saw Harold Vorster score an early try for the Bulls.

However, Evan Roos touched down early in the second half and Andre-Hugo Venter added a second shortly after Cornal Hendricks had been sin-binned for a high tackle.

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Bulls fly-half Chris Smith proved more reliable from the tee on the night than opposite number Manie Libbok, but it mattered little in the end and the latter’s drop-goal completed the scoring late on.

The result marked an 11th win in a row for the Stormers, who never lifted the title during their time in Super Rugby – beaten by the Bulls in their only final in 2010.

The Bulls took little over two minutes to strike the first blow at the DHL Stadium.

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Johan Grobbelaar capitalised on a brief moment of confusion in the Stormers defence to embark on a penetrating break before offloading to Vorster to wriggle over.

Smith added the extras and the Bulls continued to look the sharper and more dangerous of the two sides throughout the opening quarter.

Libbok was the Stormers’ hero in their 17-15 semi-final victory over Ulster last weekend, kicking the winning conversion at the death. However, he had missed all three of his attempts at goal prior to that point and pulled his first effort of the night wide of the posts in the 33rd minute on Saturday.

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To the relief of the home fans, Libbok did find the target with his next attempt, reducing the arrears to four on the stroke of half-time.

The concern for the Bulls at the break will have been their inability to fully capitalise on their control of the opening period and, after briefly restoring their seven-point advantage with a Smith penalty at the start of the second, the Stormers were soon level.

In-form Roos took the ball at pace, bounced through a tackle and stretched to touch down, with Libbok converting.

The Stormers were on top and were boosted further when a somewhat chaotic passage of play ended with Hendricks in the bin.

A second Stormers try quickly followed, with Venter finding his way over from a line-out maul just short of the hour.

Libbok could not add the conversion and Smith cut the gap to two with a penalty. However, that was the sum of the Bulls’ late response and Libbok’s drop-goal saw the Stormers home.

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