CAPE TOWN – A tepid first-half performance condemned the Stormers to a record 57-24 defeat against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Crusaders scored five tries in a 25-minute period in the first half – including a hattrick for wing George Bridge – that ended the match as a contest by half time with the home team leading 36-3.
The score surpassed the Crusaders’ 51-13 win against the Stormers in 2003 while they also scored a 51-23 win in 2005. Both those previous half-centuries occurred in Cape Town.
A poor defensive performance‚ particularly in the first half‚ saw the Stormers miss 31 tackles and make zero dominant tackles in the match.
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Although the set piece functioned well‚ there were also 15 handling errors. The Stormers couldn’t cope with the Crusaders’ linespeed on defence when they did have possession‚ although it often bordered on offside by the home team.
But as long as referee Paul Williams allowed the Crusaders to live on the edge‚ they took advantage and thrived.
Three of the Crusaders’ first-half tries came from defensive blunders in wide channels by the Stormers – with wing Cheslin Kolbe twice coming inside only to see a pass sail over his head‚ allowing Bridge and No 8 Kieran Read to score.
With the momentum they earned in contact the Crusaders put the visitors to the sword and ended by scoring eight tries on the night‚ which also included two for Read while prop Michael Alaalatoa‚ flank Peter Manu and wing Manasa Mataele scored the others.
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After the break the Stormers showed better intensity in contact‚ aided by the introduction of flank Cobus Wiese with Pieter-Steph du Toit moving to lock after starting the match at flank.
But Wiese only lasted 15 minutes before crying off with a recurrence of a shoulder injury that kept him out against the Lions last week.
While he was on the Stormers scored twice – an intercept from Kolbe and a well-worked move and neat finish from left wing Bjorn Basson.
Any thoughts of an unlikely comeback were quickly quelled‚ though‚ when Alaalatoa crashed over from close range. There was a hint of doubt about the score with a suggestion of a knock-on in the build-up‚ but it stood.
Samu then intercepted two minutes later before Stormers prop Frans Malherbe added another for the visitors.
Defeat was a blow for the Stormers but they remain firmly in control of the Africa 1 conference on 26 points from eight matches still 16 points clear of the Bulls.
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The seven-time champion Crusaders remain the only undefeated team in the tournament with their eighth consecutive win. It’s the third time they have gone 8-0 at the start of a season and they top the NZ conference on 36 points.
The Stormers lost centre Daniel du Plessis to what appeared to be a serious arm injury early in the match and Wiese’s exit also looked like it would rule him out of the remainder of the tour.
The Stormers take on the Highlanders in Dunedin next week and then play the defending champion Hurricanes to conclude their itinerary.
Crusaders – Tries: George Bridge (3)‚ Kieran Read (2)‚ Michael Alaalatoa‚ Peter Samu‚ Manasa Mataele. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (6). Penalty: Mo’unga. Stormers – Tries: Cheslin Kolbe‚ Bjorn Basson‚ Frans Malherbe. Conversions: Rob du Preez (3). Penalty. Du Preez.
- TMG Digital/TMG Sport/Times Live
PHOTO: Stormers Wing Cheslin Kolbe. File photo