Stormers start warm up series with Lions victory

The Stormers kicked off their 2011 season with a scrappy 15-0 victory over the Lions in the Neo Africa Tri-Series at a windy Newlands on Friday night.

It was a typical pre-season stop-start affair ahead of next month’s Super Rugby competition, with a number of handling mistakes, free kicks and penalties conceded by both teams.

The Stormers were in control of the match for most of the night and a rout may have been expected by the noisy 12 557 Newlands crowd when Springbok centre Jean de Villiers cantered over for an easy try as early as the fifth minute after shrugging off a Lions defender.

But despite dominating possession, the Stormers were unable to convert their try-scoring opportunities. There were some exciting gallops by the likes of hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, prop Brok Harris, lock Andries Bekker and captain Schalk Burger throughout, and they gave the Stormers great momentum.

The front-foot ball generated by the forwards assisted 20-year-old flyhalf Gary van Aswegen, who was making his Stormers debut, to run the show convincingly at the back. Van Aswegen looked slick on the night, with his passing, decision-making and tactical kicking adding zip to the backline.

His goal-kicking was off the mark, but it must be said that the blustery wind made life extremely difficult for any shots at the posts.

The Lions’ pack of forwards held their own and even knocked the Stormers back on occasion. Captain and lock Franco van der Merwe, flank Josh Strauss and No 8 Warren Whiteley carried the ball strongly, while the front row of JC Janse van Rensburg, Bandise Maku and Kevin Buys had their moments in the scrums too.

But the little possession the Lions backline received seldom caused problems for the home side as the Stormers’ brutal defence kept the Johannesburg side at bay. Only Lions scrumhalf Rory Kockott tried his best to break the advantage line, and kept defenders busy with quick taps and little darts around the fringes.

After a lacklustre first half, the Stormers started the second brightly, Burger following up a charge down the right-hand touchline by falling over for a try from a maul after a five-metre lineout.

But they couldn’t push on as the Lions made a better fist of things in the second half. They spent several periods inside the Stormers’ 22-metre area, and even got over the tryline from a maul. But referee Jonathan Kaplan ruled that they were held up.

Highly rated new Lions recruit Lionel Mapoe didn’t see much of the ball at left wing, but looked sharp when in possession, while fullback Michael Killian was his usual busy self when coming into the backline. Killian nearly scored the Lions’ only try, but the assistant referee decided that he had lost the ball forward in going over the line.

Similarly, the star-studded Stormers backline that included De Villiers, Bryan Habana, Juan de Jongh and Gio Aplon also never really got opportunities to carry the ball.

In a late flurry by the Stormers, replacement wing Danie Poolman eventually scored the final try of the match after a concerted build-up from their own half. Poolman was put away in the corner by a classy offload from replacement loose forward Pieter Louw.

Final Score Stormers 15 Lions 0


Tries: Jean de Villiers, Schalk Burger, Danie Poolman.


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