The Stormers got their Super Rugby campaign off to a winning start, scoring three tries on their way to a 39-26 victory over a determined Hurricanes outfit in Cape Town on Saturday.
The visitors had three of their props sent to the sin bin at Newlands but still showed plenty of fighting spirit and forced the Stormers to work hard for their victory, but ultimately lacked the quality across the park to cause an upset.
The Cape side did not see much of the ball in the opening exchanges but once they did, they made it count. Towering lock Eben Etzebeth crashed the ball up forcefully in midfield to get them on the front foot before the ball went to the left where Schalk Burger took it at first receiver and shifted it out to Gio Aplon.
The Stormers speedster hit the ball at pace and showed the ball on the outside before accelerating through a gap and racing away from the cover defence for an impressive try to get the ball rolling.
The teams then exchanged penalties but the next big moment in the game came when Burger injured his knee after crashing the ball up, and with the Stormers skipper clearly in some pain before being escorted off the field to go for a scan there were more than a few anxious looks at Newlands.
The Stormers forwards clearly had the upper hand with a few impressive driving mauls pinning the Hurricanes pack on the back foot, and their task was made even tougher when they had both their props sent to the sin bin late in the first half.
First it was loosehead Tristan Moran who saw yellow after deliberately knocking the ball away when it looked like the Stormers were certain to score.
The home side used that advantage to maul the ball over the tryline without much fuss, with debutant flank Siya Kolisi who had replaced Burger getting over for his first Super Rugby try.
Shortly afterwards, with the Stormers applying the pressure on the Hurricanes line once more, tighthead prop Ben May was shown a yellow card for another professional foul and there was a comical moment as locks Jason Eaton and Jeremy Thrush taking their place in the front row at the uncontested scrum for the 13-man Hurricanes.
Although the Stormers had a two-man advantage the visitors defended admirably, and eventually flyhalf Gary Van Aswegen resorted to a drop-goal after a number of cracks at the tryline.
With half-time approaching the Stormers appeared to lose focus and the Hurricanes capitalised by keeping the ball alive well before young flyhalf Beauden Barrett put inside centre Tim Bateman over the tryline with a great offload in the tackle after he had drawn in two defenders.
The conversion made it 23-16 to the Stormers at the break, but it would have been the Hurricanes who would take the momentum into the second forty minutes.
The visitors made it a double-strike either side of half-time when the impressive Barrett intercepted a floating pass from Jean de Villiers and hared upfield to score a try which he converted to level the scores at 23-23.
The Stormers took the lead back with three penalties, and the Hurricanes hit back with one of their own but the game was killed off as a contest when the Stormers launched yet another driving maul which was stopped illegally resulting in a penalty try and a yellow card for replacement prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen.
The home side will be satisfied with the win and certain aspects of their game such as the maul which put the Hurricanes pack under some serious pressure, but they will also be aware that they should have driven home their numerical advantage much better and put the game beyoned the reach of the Hurricanes rather than letting them back into the contest as they did.
For the Stormers:
Tries: Aplon, Kolisi, penalty try
Cons: Pietersen 3
Pens: Pietersen 5
DG: Van Aswegen
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Bateman, Barrett
Cons: Barrett 2
Pens: Barrett 4
Yellow cards: Tristan Moran, Ben May, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Bryan Habana, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Marcel Brache.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Chris Eaton, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tristan Moran.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 TJ Perenara, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Charlie Ngatai.
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
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