RUGBY NEWS - The perfect Super Rugby record of the Western Stormers this season ended Saturday with England wing Joe Marchant scoring two tries for the Auckland Blues in a 33-14 triumph.
Having won four consecutive matches and boasting six victories in their last eight matches against the New Zealanders, the South Africans were expected to succeed in Cape Town. But a table-topping Stormers side that seemed to believe they needed only turn up to win struggled for possession and territory from start to finish and ended a well-beaten team.
The sole consolation for the Cape Town outfit is they remain top of the combined standings with 17 points, three more than defending champions the Canterbury Crusaders of New Zealand. A key moment at Newlands stadium came in additional first-half time when Marchant scored his second try to help the Blues lead 27-14 by the break. Awarded a penalty in their 22, the Stormers kicked to touch, but lost the subsequent line-out by overthrowing the ball and the Blues launched an offensive.
Wing Mark Telea, barely back on the field after being sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, eluded several tackles and the ball moved wide for Marchant to score in the corner. Fly-half Otere Black, who contributed 18 points, converted and the Blues had a comfortable lead again after seeing a 20-point advantage reduced to just six. Only six points were scored in the second half with Black slotting two penalties for the eighth-place Blues against a Stormers team that barely threatened to cut the deficit.
TV analyst and former Springboks coach Nick Mallett labelled the Stormers "schoolboys" after an error-strewn performance that included missing 36 tackles and conceding 11 penalties. Marchant was more diplomatic after receiving the man of the match award, saying the Blues had met "good teams" in South Africa, referring to the Northern Bulls and the Stormers.
'We were fired up'
"We were fired up for this match and came out of the blocks fast," said the 23-year-old back capped three times by England but who missed out on 2019 Rugby World Cup selection. "I switched from (English Premiership club) the Harlequins to the Blues this year thanks to a sabbatical clause because I wanted to sample Super Rugby."
The Blues were 20 points ahead within 22 minutes thanks to tries from Marchant and flanker Dalton Papalii with Black converting both and kicking two penalties.
A mini Stormers revival delivered tries from number eight Juarno Augustus and winger Sergeal Petersen and fly-half Damian Willemse was successful with both conversions. But that was as good as it got for the South Africans with Marchant scoring another try, which Black converted before adding two penalties in the second half.
In Pretoria, the Jaguares outscored the bottom--of-the-table Bulls by six tries to three for a 39-24 bonus-point victory that lifted them three places to fifth overall. Late first-half tries from lock Guido Petti and centre Matias Moroni powered the Argentines to a 24-14 half-time lead at Loftus Versfield stadium.
The South Africans were still 10 points behind with 16 minutes when they gained a numerical advantage as fly-half Joaquin Diaz Bonilla was sin-binned. But the Bulls failed to score against 14 men and pushover try from substitute hooker Santiago Socino on 72 minutes sealed the fate of the home team.
"It is always tough playing in South Africa as their teams have huge forwards, but we did well in the mauls," said man-of-the-match Petti. "Defence is always our first priority and we coped well against long spells of pressure from the Bulls inside our 22."