The Blues’ hopes of securing a play-off spot in the hyper-competitive New Zealand conference suffered a brutal set-back in Cape Town this morning (NZ time), going down 30-22 to the Stormers.
Referee Jaco van Heerden ruled the match with an iron fist, and as a result both teams traded yellow cards early – winger Matt Duffie received one for his team being repeatedly offside, and fiery Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth was sent to the naughty chair for an open-handed push to the face of Akira Ioane.
Finally, in the 22nd minute of the game, George Moala got the first try of the match. The happy recipient of some wonderful forward play from Charlie Faumuina, who’s canny offload put Moala over the line, untouched.
Captain James Parsons got the second – also off the back of some fine handling by the big-bearded tighthead prop – scoring in the corner like a winger.
But the Stormers pegged one back on the stroke of halftime to make it a two-point game.
The indomitable Blake Gibson was justly rewarded for yet another barnstorming performance when Sonny Bill Williams gifted him a choice offload just short of the try line, sending the young flanker crashing over for the first points of the second half.
Some heroic defence from the Blues kept the Stormers out until the 60th minute, when a converted try gave them a one-point advantage.
Things went from bad to worse when Duffie received his second yellow card (and therefore a red) for diving on a player who was already on the ground, leaving the Blues a man short for the remaining 15 minutes.
The Stormers scored again to pull away to an eight-point lead. Both sides traded penalties in the final 10, but the difference remained the same.
Captain James Parsons said after the match: “We started well but we didn’t adjust to the referee as well as the Stormers did, and that was costly. We also didn’t win the physical battle in the last 20.
“One thing I could not question was the ticket of the boys, they showed plenty of resilience. We just have to sharpen up on the accuracy. We knew it was going to be a big battle but we did not win the physical battle for long enough.”
Our team now returns to Auckland, where they’ll face the Chiefs at Eden Park on Friday 26 May. It’s our final home game of the regular Investec Super Rugby season. Get your tickets here.
Blues 22 (Tries – Moala, Parsons, Gibson; Conversions – Francis 2; Penalties – Gatland)
Stormers 30 (Tries – Kolisi, Leyds, Notshe; Conversions – Marais 3; Penalties – Marais 2)