Storm of the century fizzles
Sunday, April 24, 2005 allblacks.com
Yet it was their enviable tally - built on heart and cool rugby heads - of three unanswered second half tries that secured what had looked an unlikely victory.
The win rockets the the Blues into the top four for the first time in 2005.
Earlier, the Blues found themselves truly in the eye of the Storm, as the South Africans stitched together an exceptional period of festival football that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the World Sevens circuit.
Barnstorming tries to second-five De Wet Barry, centre Jean De Villiers and paceman supreme Tonderai Chavanga saw the Stormers take an incredible 24-0 lead with just 19 minutes of the match gone.
Then the fight-back began. Having managed to create chances in the face of the onslaught - in the second quarter the Blues began to finish them. No 10 Tasesa Lavea the first... wrestling his way over beside the right-hand flag, and the TMO confirming referee Stuart Dickinson’s suspicions. Fair try.
Second-five Luke McAlister added the penalty and (aided by an inability of the Stormers back three to hold the high-ball) the Blues turned on the heat once again. Ending a multitude of phases, No 14 Doug Howlett surged at the line, before centre Rua Tipoki danced his way over for the Blues’ second.
31 minutes gone and the skies over Newlands Stadium (perhaps in commiseration at the rapidly closing scoreline) opened up with a vengence.
Crucially, as the hooter sounded and the Stormers all but turned toward the changing rooms, the Blues somehow kept the ball alive over six phases. It worked. Captain Xavier Rush capped a mighty comeback when he collected a McAlister chip on the full to dive between the uprights.
Halftime: 24-22 Stormers
Fleeting errors were forgotten as both teams maintained the frenzied pace after the break - prop Tony Woodcock (blindside Jerome Kaino joining in) proving a surprising passport to winger Joe Rokocoko’s try, the Blues fourth.
At 27-24, the visitors took the lead for the first time.
Yet well before the bonus point arrived, it was clear a major shift in momentum had occurred, Du toit’s assured first-half evaporating as the Blues retained more & more possession. Lavea and McAlister also started causing the Stormers major problems on defence. Indeed, it was the No 12 who was all set to extend the lead in the 53rd minute... until Barry intercepted his connecting in-pass.
The rain grew heavier, signalling a potential revival in the Storm back on ground level too. But du Toit couldn’t convert what would have been the equaliser. Incredibly, his Stormers had now remained scoreless for over 40 minutes.
That penalty proved to be their last real scoring opportunity. Blues super-sub Saimone Taumoepeau shut Stormers halfback Bolla Conradie like a suitcase and forced the turnover, giving flanker Daniel Braid the opportunity to offload blindside, where an ecstatic Lavea chewed up the remaining 25m for the try.
32-24 Blues. Turnover Stormers, and Rokocoko bagged his second (collecting another pinpoint McAlister punt) in the 38th.
The Blues sixth try, and a scoreline that left local fans clutching nothing but a sickening sense of deja vu after last week’s similar, second half implosion against the Crusaders.
The Blues now lock horns with the Bulls next week.
Final score: 37-24 Blues.
Blues. Tries: Tasesa Lavea (2), Rua Tipoki, Xavier Rush, Joe Rokocoko (2). Conversions: Luke McAlister (2). Penalties: McAlister.
Stormers. Tries: Jean De Villiers, De Wet Barry, Tonderai Chavanga. Conversions: Gaffie du Toit (3). Penalties: du Toit.
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