CAPE TOWN – The Lions and the Stormers sure made rugby’s return a good one at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. It was a proper game of two halves, which the Cape side triumphed 34-21.
The first half belonged to the Stormers, for sure, and the Lions refused to go down without a fight when they emerged from the shed.
After more than six months of no rugby, you wouldn’t have deserved to be called unnecessarily cynical if you didn’t expect much. But this game delivered.
The fact that the Stormers had their first run-out at altitude would no doubt have made the challenge even tougher, but they deserve credit for their composure – something the Lions lacked at times in the first half – and the way they handled the game despite visible fatigue and patches of rustiness – which was naturally to be expected after the long rugby break. But they had the upper hand in the first 40.
With a pack like theirs, you can never really expect disappointment, and that unit was one of the major contributors to the Stormers’ dominance in the first half, although the Lions got the scoreboard ticking.
The DHL @THESTORMERS kept momentum in the second-half to claim the win in the second clash on Vodacom #SuperFanSaturday. All eyes are on now Vodacom #SuperRugbyUnlocked, where these two teams will take each other on again. #LIOvSTO pic.twitter.com/6kkePSawgH
— vodacomrugby (@VodacomRugga) September 26, 2020
The Lions opened the scoring after flyhalf and captain Elton Jantjies sent a pin-point kick-pass to wing Courtnall Skosan, who gathered and added some pace to finish (7-0).
Stormers outside centre Dan du Plessis responded when he ran a stunner of a line after a try after a superb pass from flyhalf Damian Willemse – who also added a penalty kick before that try – after a ruck in Lions’ 22.
Willemse’s conversion took the score to 10-7 for the Cape side. Hooker Scarra Ntubeni added to the Stormers’ early tally when he dived over to extend their lead after showing good control at the back during another strong maul from John Dobson’s side (15-7).
Throughout the first half, the Stormers’ scrum was absolutely dominant. Their defence, as well, would have been for then enough to earn an ear-to-ear smile from assistant coach Norman Laker.
One of the biggest positives from the game was the inclusion of youngsters, and how those guys came through.
— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) September 26, 2020
On the individual front, Warrick Gelant produced a top showing in his debut for the Stormers.
He added a few sharp attacking touches to the Stormers’ play – one of which included his try-assist when skipper Siya Kolisi scored in the corner after his team did an excellent job of keeping things going and taking the ball through the hands in what turned out to be the longest passage of play in the opening half. They bagged that try, their third, in the 43rd minute (half time 20-7). The former Bulls fullback’s finest contribution, however, was the try he scored after the break that showed his vision and how he can navigate space, exploiting the gap between two Lions front-rowers to fly to the tryline and make the Stormers’ lead a commanding one (27-7).
Elton Jantjies also showed good control despite the Lions packs’ early struggles.
The Johannesburg team showed much more continuity and intent after the break after changing the bulk of their team. There was a real shift in momentum as they enjoyed more possession, and they started their comeback when they scored their second try through Jamba Ulengo (27-14), which replacement flyhalf Gianni Lombard converted with an excellent kick from a tough angle (27-14).
With their third try by MJ Pelser, the Lions started closing in on the Stormers’ score (27-21).
A try on debut for Warrick Gelant 🔥
The DHL Stormers fullback slices through to dot down under the posts. They lead 27-21 with just over ten minutes to go.
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) September 26, 2020
While the Stormers were under pressure in the second half, they made sure that they made good on their impressive start when Paul de Wet ran in their last (converted) try to seal the game (34-21).
Lions: Tries: Courtnall Skosan, Jamba Ulengo, Pelser Conversions: Elton Jantjies, Gianni Lombard (2) Yellow card: Marvin Orie
Stormers: Tries: Dan du Plessis, Scarra Ntubeni, Siya Kolisi, Warrick Gelant, Paul de Wet Conversions: Damian Willemse (2), Tim Swiel Penalties: Willemse