Less than a minute in and the first penalty was awarded to the Stormers, about 8 metres from the sideline 30 metres out. The Stormers duly kicked it and it was 3-0 to the Stormers.
Then the curse struck again, putting on a step, Reds flyhalf Sam Lane looked to have done a knee.
The Stormers reputation for all defence no attack was put to rest with a try to Gio Aplon. The try came from a super bit of counter attack. From a breakdown they kicked and some offensive defence from Juan De Jongh on Ben Tapuai, forcing the turn over, seizing on the momentum, Aplon strolled over for the try.
The tackle caused more injury issues for the Reds as during the conversion Tapuai left the field, reports later came up that it was a fractured collar bone. The Reds were now out of back reserves. The conversion was successful and the score 10-0 to the Stormers.
The ebb and flow of the match settled and both teams played the territory game. the Reds had the only two point scoring opportunities in the half, Mike Harris kicked one that was just short, and it wasn’t until the 29th minute that the Reds earned a penalty and Ben Lucas converted. The Reds were on the board.
In the 37th minute, with the Stormers hard on attack, several phases were repelled by the Reds before Radike Samo (and he was far from Robinson Crusoe) made a telling miss in defence, the opportunity was taken with Peter Grant sneaking over the line to get the ball down. He converted his own try to give the Stormers a 17-3 lead.
As the half time hooter sounded, it was clear the break was needed. The 17 – 3 deficit was clearly getting to the Reds who were in panic mode, with plenty of kicks that weren’t on and attempts at miracle plays being tried. Would half time change the momentum?
The first six minutes of the second half were all Red, only very committed defence from the Stormers holding them out. This all culminated in Rob Simmons getting over the line, but he was unable to control the ball and it was deemed an knock on.
In the fifty-third minute, some lazy work off the ball resulted in Scott Higginbotham being hit by the ball and the Stormers were awarded a penalty for accidental offside. It was in a very kick-able location, and the Stormers wasted no time in adding the extra points to have the score 20-3 in their favour.
The best looking attacking chance for the Reds came when the Stormers took the ball into the 22, and kicked in out on the full, the kick was done from 5 metres out which gave the Reds a cracking attacking (rhyming) line out. They secured clean ball and went to set a maul, but the Stormers defence was up to it, the counter rucking was intense and the ball was turned over.
The Reds were playing all the footy though, and it eventually paid, in the sixty-first minute Captain James Horwil crossed for a try, swooping on a loose ball at the back of the line-out. Mike Harris converted to make the score 20-10 to the Stormers. Had the comeback begun?
Still the Reds pushed, but a combination of their lack of penetration and the starch of the Stormers defence meant they were repelled with alarming regularity. The Reds managed to turn the Stormers scrum and win the re-feed in the seventy eighth minute, and then earn a penalty from the reset. Mike Harris kicked the penalty to make the score 20 -13, but the clock was going to mean the come back would fall short.
A penalty shortly after the re-start gave Peter Grant an easy shot at goal, and the opportunity to wind down the clock. He made the shot count and the deficit was back to 10 (23-13) with the hooter only a minute away. That would deny the Reds a much needed bonus point, how much would that cost them at seasons end.
From the restart the Stormers secured possession, holding it at the back of the ruck until the hooter sounded and they put the ball out, putting an end to the Reds misery.
Honestly the injury’s don’t help, especially all in one position, but there is plenty of headless play going on. Against a team like the Stormers, they needed accuracy and cool heads but the panic seemed to set in early. The second half was much more composed, but they are paying dearly for a lack of creativity in attack.
The effort is there, but it just isn’t coming off, partly due to poor execution and partly due to poor decisions under pressure. The clinical Reds of 2011 are nowhere to be seen. Clearly, there is also the danger of running out of backs.
It clearly now the question changes from HOW can the Reds get this season back on track to CAN the Reds get this season back on track?
Reds 13 (Try: Horwill Con: Harris 1/1 Pen: Lucas 1/2, Harris 1/2) defeated by Stormers 23 (Try: Aplon, Grant Con: Grant 2/2 Pen: 4/4)
Man of the Match went to Peter Grant from the Stormers