Stormers captain Schalk Burger scored a converted try at the death to steal a 28-26 win over the Blues at Eden Park on Friday.
Stormers captain Schalk Burger scored a converted try at the death to steal a 28-26 win over the Blues in a Super Rugby thriller at Eden Park on Friday.
With just two minutes of the match remaining, the Bok flanker powered over under a pile of bodies to level the scores after the TMO found no reason why the try should not be awarded.
Replacement scrum-half Dewaldt Duvenage – playing out of position at 10 – stepped up for the pressure conversion, and didn't let his team-mates down with the match-winner that broke Blues' hearts.
It was a remarkable comeback by the visitors, who trailed by sixteen points (19-3) at half-time. But just like the Chiefs did against Burger and his troops a week ago, the Stormers stormed back after the break with three tries to put them back in contention and, ultimately, take home the spoils.
The win was a triumph for a Stormers team reduced in strength by injuries to first-choice fly-half Peter Grant and Bok centers Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie.
They suffered a further blow when they lost stand-in pivot Lionel Cronje to a knee injury after 28 minutes. But Duvenage took Cronje's place and made a vital contribution, kicking two conversions and two penalties from five shots at goal.
The come-from-behind win was also crucial to the Stormers' hopes of gaining automatic qualification to the play-offs, who will remain top of the South African Conference even if the Sharks beat the Bulls in Durban.
As for the Blues, the upset defeat scraps any chance of them joining the top-of-the-table Reds on level points and instead stay in second place with 50 points after suffering their second loss on the trot.
The Blues will be kicking themselves after leading for nearly the entire match. Centre Luke McAlister got his team on the board in the very first minute of play and the hosts never relinquished their lead until two minutes from full-time.
In-form Blues halfback Alby Mathewson was on hand to scoot over for the first try in the 12th minute, after a superb break from pivot Stephen Brett had the Stormers backline in sixes and sevens.
McAlister made it 10-0 with his conversion, and continued to build up a healthy lead with three more penalties in the first half – two of them coming with Stormers' flank Francois Louw in the bin.
Cronje made up for an earlier miss with a three-pointer in the 18th minute before hobbling off the field with a knee injury, but that was all the visitors had to offer before the break.
The Stormers' comeback started with an early Duvenage penalty before stand-in centers Juan de Jongh and Johann Sadie combined for two tries in three minutes to cut the Blues' lead to 19-18 midway through the second half.
First De Jongh was put through a gap by Sadie, and then used his power to bust through several Blues' tacklers for a splendid converted try. Sadie was on hand again to give the Stormers a glimmer of hope when he broke the line at pace and outsprinted three Blues' defenders to the tryline.
Duvenage missed the simple conversion to put the Stormers in front, but the Blues looked rattled.
Their nerves were eased somewhat when a converted try to Blues full-back Lachie Munro gave the hosts an eight-point buffer with 13 minutes remaining. But Duvenage gave the Stormers a sniff with another 70th-minute penalty.
With the game there for the taking, the Stormers rallied in the last five minutes of the match and won a penalty. Burger opted for the line-out and the decision paid off after the skipper burrowed his way over to tie the scores with Duvenage's conversion to follow.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Tries: Mathewson, Munro
Con: McAlister 2
Pens: McAlister 4
Tries: De Jongh, Sadie, Burger
Pens: Cronje, Duvenage 2
Blues: 15 Lachie Munro, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: 16 Pauliasi Manu, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Chris Lowrey, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Winston Stanley, 22 Rene Ranger.
Stormers: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Steven Kitshoff, 19 Anton Van Zyl, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Danie Poolman, 22 Nick Koster.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)