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Stormers eventually tame the Bulls in a nail-biting URC clash

By PA
(Photo by Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images)

The Stormers kept the heat up on URC leaders Leinster with a tense 23-19 victory over South African rivals the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld. In a clash between last season’s finalists, defending champions Stormers moved up through the gears after a cagey start to the clash to claim the spoils.

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Bulls fly-half Chris Smith and Stormers counterpart Manie Libbok, the two leading point-scorers in this season’s competition, took centre stage with the boot in the early exchanges.

Their efforts left the Bulls 12-3 ahead after 24 minutes, although the home side’s advantage could have been greater had it not been for some desperate last-ditch defending from Stormers captain Deon Fourie to haul back Cornal Hendricks as he looked certain to race over.

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At the other end, the Stormers had shown little as an attacking force themselves but that all changed in the 28th minute when they scored the game’s opening try. Scrum-half Herschel Jantjies floated a long pass out to the left wing where the unmarked No8 Marcel Theunissen had a clear run to the line.

There was a check for a forward pass in the build-up but the TMO saw no offence and the try was allowed to stand. Libbok added the extras with a superb touchline conversion, and the Springbok was also on target in the final minute of the half as the Stormers went ahead for the first time at 13-12, a lead they held at the break.

The Bulls will have been disappointed to have trailed at half-time having held the upper hand for much of the first half but they found themselves on the back foot at the start of the second period as the Stormers pushed for more points under the Pretoria rain. They were rewarded in the 52nd minute when Junior Pokomela finished off a fine counter-attack.

Dan du Plessis looked in a spot of bother when he raced back to pick up a punt clear but he evaded two tackles before sending Suleiman Hartzenberg away and when Theunissen was finally hauled down, the Stormers were only five yards short.

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The visitors would not be denied though and, following several attempted drives from close to the line, Pokomela was able to touch down, with Libbok adding another fine conversion from out wide.

With their tails up, the Stormers appeared set to add to their tally and the Bulls suffered a further setback when full-back David Kriel was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on as Neethling Fouche looked to put du Plessis in down the left.

Despite being down to 14 men and under the cosh, however, the Bulls refused to give in and they got back into the contest when a superb offload by Elrigh Louw sent Sbu Nkosi flying in, with Morne Steyn’s conversion making it a one-point game.

Libbok’s drop goal further extended the Stormers’ lead and the visitors were able to withstand a late onslaught from the Bulls to claim a nail-biting victory.

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