Stormers left feeling Blue
The Blues survived a late fightback from the Stormers to hold on for an 18-17 Super Rugby win at North Harbour Stadium in Albany on Friday.
It was a case of close but no cigar for the visitors, after two Jean de Villiers tries in the second half gave his team a glimmer of hope of snatching another upset win on the road.
However after 20 phases into injury time, a wayward last-gasp drop goal attempt from replacement pivot Elton Jantjies handed the Blues back possession and they didn't need a second invitation to boot the ball into touch.
The try-less Blues had to rely on Chris Noakes' boot for all their points, with the fly-half slotting over six penalties that ultimately proved enough when the full-time whistle was blown.
Whilst the hosts failed to cross the whitewash, defence was the name of their game after denying a certain try to lock Andries Bekker in the first half and then putting their shoulders to the test in a thrilling finale.
The Stormers expected to dominate the match through set-pieces and stout defence and, while their defence was again impenetrable, their set-piece play was not as flawless as it has been in recent weeks.
They hoped to use rolling mauls from a line-out dominated by Bekker to attack the Blues' tryline, but that tactic faltered when their kicking for touch was too inaccurate. The Blues struggled to hold their own at scrum-time but they answered the threat of the Stormers' line-out without conceding penalties for collapsing mauls.
The Stormers had come close to scoring a try in the first half when an outstanding break by full-back Joe Pietersen led to Bekker being hauled down an inch short of the line.
As the Stormers' frustrations grew, mainly through the ineffectiveness of their own game, their errors were punished with penalties as Noakes kicked three goals for the Blues to lead 9-3 at half-time.
Noakes kicked two more penalties to extend the lead to 15-3 after 65 minutes and the Stormers had begun to look ragged. But captain De Villiers, in outstanding form, spurred their revival.
The Bok centre first forced his way across the line after a break by midfield partner Juan de Jongh, then scored his second from his own solo break in the 77th minute.
That left the Stormers only a point behind and though they had several possessions in the last three minutes, and for all four minutes in stoppage time, they couldn't save the match.
More to follow...
Pens: Noakes 6
Tries: De Villiers 2
Cons: Pietersen 2
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Lolagi Visinia.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Eben Etzebeth, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Damian de Allende.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)