In a night more suited to aquatic birds with webbed feet, the Stormers overcame the Force in the wet.
The conditions were, to use the correct technical term, shithouse and unfortunately the footy not much better at times. With that said, pre-game predictions about how each side would approach things came to fruition. The Force kept the ball in the pigs and didn’t spread it that much. Understandable, when you consider the weather and quality of the Stormers defence, as well as the fact that they haven’t exactly lit it up on attack this year. They competed, as has become the custom this season, aggressively in the tight stuff and at the breakdown. The Stormers had it far from all their own way in those phases of the game.
Indeed, the Force were able to exert pressure on the Stormers’ lineout and occasionally in the scrum too. The problem was what to do with the ball when they did get it, which was generally slightly less than half the time. There was a lot of kicking, but unfortunately quite a bit of it didn’t really hit the mark. The desire was certainly there to take it up to the opposition, but the skill level and combinations weren’t. A few people seated near me were screaming at them to run the ball more, but there were really only very few opportunities through the game to do that.
The Stormers also surprised nobody with their approach. Their defence at the ruck and wider is akin to death by a thousand cuts. They just keep knocking blokes over and pushing them back and the Force had no real answer to it tonight. Eventually an attacking team will tire of this and either turn the ball over through a skill error or kick it away, which the Force duly did on a number of occasions. The Stormers didn’t create a huge amount of their own, but it wasn’t really a night attacking footy anyway. They kept the ball in close and opted to win through attrition to a degree. They have confidence in their game plan and the players out there to execute it. There would have been no panic at any stage tonight and they would have known if they stuck to their structures that the points would come. Their execution was in general pretty clinical.
The first of their tries was from a Habana intercept and I could say that they were fortunate, but he so frequently finds himself in the right position to do it that I would say it’s a matter of skill. I’m not at all convinced that he is a centre and his game wasn’t extraordinary tonight, but it’s probably a matter of necessity for the Stormers at the moment. The second try came from a more traditional build-up, with the big Stormers forwards carrying the ball to the line and eventually weight of numbers told. Not flashy, but it didn’t need to be and neither was it the night for that sort of thing.
Stormers 17 (Habana, Grant tries; Grant 2 convs; Grant penalty) beat Force 3 (Harvey penalty)
Ref: Jaco Peyper
Nathan Sharpe left the field at one stage, but ran out the game. Dave Harvey looked to be in some trouble early on, but also recovered. I did also notice that Andries Bekker looked a little proppy towards the end. Maybe his back isn’t 100%.
The Force were on attack at or around the Stormers’ 22 and threw a wide ball to Bryan Habana, who intercepted and sprinted away to score under the posts. Replays later in the game suggested that he might not have grounded the ball, but I don’t think anyone at the ground doubted it was a try at the time. With the Force struggling to apply a lot of pressure in attack, this was like a punch in the solar plexus. The game totally changed at this point and the Stormers and with that the game was pretty much over as a contest, even though it was relatively early on.
On a night when the game just seemed like a mass of bodies sliding around in the wet, I didn’t see any standout performers from either side. Peter Grant had a strong game in guiding the Stormers around the park and their tight forwards did their jobs. For the Force, Nathan Charles was heavily involved and his front row partners were good in general play.
The Talking Point
It has to be the deplorable conditions. We don’t often get rain like this during a rugby game in Perth and indeed I can’t remember it ever raining at a Force game that I’ve been to (over the course of about five years). It pretty much killed off whatever spectacle we might have been expecting. If anything it got heavier as the game went on and the handling seemed to get worse with it.