The Stormers' Australasian tour is off to a losing start as David Hill's last-minute drop goal sealed a 16-15 win for Western Force.
The Stormers' Australasian tour is off to a losing start as David Hill's last-minute drop goal sealed a 16-15 win for the Force in Perth on Friday.
Stoic means indifferent to pleasure or pain, a reference to how well the Stormers defended. If only those forced to watch them could possess such a virtue; this match was a dour, mindless affair from start to finish with all the attacking coming from the home team.
Missed penalties from James O'Connor – twice – and Hill looked to have handed the match to the visitors, for whom Francois Louw's work at the breakdown was invaluable to his team's cause, but some careful scrummaging in the final minute gave Hill a chance from 35 metres and he made no mistake.
It was just reward indeed for a Force side from whom much was expected at the start of the season but upon whom lady luck has made a habit of haughtily ignoring until now.
With David Pocock and Richard Brown both back in the mix, the dynamism of the back row made a significant difference to the home team's thrusts forward and gave the defence a couple of extra bricks in the wall.
So good were both defences that at times it seemed as though it was back row against back row, both ably supported by the boots of the respective fly-halves and full-backs.
A miserable opening ten minutes, in which both sides ran about ten mono-dimensional phases at each other for gains and losses of territory that could be measured by schoolboy rulers before one or the other fly-half went for the kick to the corner, ended with the Stormers 3-0 to the good, courtesy of Peter Grant's first penalty.
Five minutes later we had the first try, a superb movement with Mark Bartholomeusz breaking the line off O'Connor's pass, finding O'Connor inside and with the young full-back finding Pocock inside for the run to the posts.
O'Connor converted to make it 7-3, but missed a chance to extend the lead a couple of minutes after as the Force enjoyed a good period of possession.
Grant reduced the deficit with his second kick as the home side's enthusiasm for chipping away at the white wall waned, while O'Connor sent a second wide. The Stormers back-row was giving Force ball-carriers a frustrating time and worse for the home team, Ben Whitaker's throwing was not up to scratch, meaning Grant was having a fine time nudging the ball to touch.
The second half picked up from where the first left off, with a good deal of kicking, hard running, tackling, turning over, kicking… repeat ad nauseam.
The lead changed hands five times – each time with a penalty – until, with ten to go, the Stormers led 15-13 courtesy of Grant's fifth.
But fatigue was beginning to show in the visitors, as was a mite of mental staleness. The Force, always more exploratory in their running angles and offloads, began to look more and more incisive but the ball just would not stick, or a runner would become isolated at the crucial moment and the Stormers would turn it over.
Finally, the Force won a scrum near the Stormers 22, one reset a number of times before Matt Hodgson made a burst, Nathan Sharpe another, debutant scrum-half Justin Turner fired the ball back to old head David Hill who made no mistake with the winning kick, wheeing away in delight.
Man of the match: The back-rows from both teams deserve a mention but for lasting power and a fine try, David Pocock enjoys this award on his return from injury.
For the Force:
Pens: O'Connor 2
For the Stormers:
Pens: Grant 5
Western Force: 5 James O'Connor, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Ryan Cross, 11 Mark Bartholomeusz, 10 David Hill, 9 Chris O'Young, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock, 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Tom Hockings, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Ben Whittaker, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Richard Stanford, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Justin Turner, 21 Sam Harris, 22 Haig Sare.
Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Sireli Naqelevuki, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 FranÃ§ois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JC Kritzinger.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Eusebio Guinazu, 18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Frikkie Welsh.
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Julian Pritchard (Australia)
TMO: Matthew Goddard (Australia)