The Crusaders brought the Stormers' unbeaten run to an end thanks to a well-earned 31-24 win in Christchurch.
The Crusaders brought the Stormers' unbeaten run in this season's Super Rugby tournament to an end thanks to a well-earned 31-24 win in Christchurch on Saturday.
Fly-half Tom Taylor stole the show by contributing all of his side's points with a try, conversion and eight penalties in what was a flawless performance by the Crusaders young gun.
Even though the visitors outscored their hosts two tries to one, their discipline let them down in the end but deserved to snatch a losing bonus point in injury time.
It was always going to be a tough day at the office for the Stormers, after losing both their first-choice locks to injury in the opening 20 minutes of the match.
But they soldiered on and managed to stay within touching distance of the seven-time champions throughout the thrilling encounter – cutting the deficit down to just one point (22-21) with a quarter of the game to play, before that man Taylor sealed the deal with his faultless boot.
The result keeps the Stormers on top of the Super Rugby standings although the Chiefs could move ahead of them with a victory over the Cheetahs later in the round.
The Crusaders moved up to seventh place overall but remained fourth in their conference indicating how tight the New Zealand conference is currently.
There were errors in this match that will be rightly criticised, but there were also superlative exhibitions of skill, unrelenting showings of power and no small measure of guts.
Taylor scored the first try of the game, after straight running and quick hands saw the ball worked to Corey Flynn on the wing and his inside pass put Taylor over.
Taylor added the extras but the visitors hit back through a Peter Grant penalty and a Juan de Jongh try after the centre hacked on a spilled pass from Carter and won the footrace to score. Pietersen added the touchline conversion to level the scores (10-10).
The Crusaders survived Wyatt Crockett's 10 minutes in the bin for a high tackle on Siya Kolisi which deserved little more than a penalty, but still went into the half-time sheds 19-13 up through three more Taylor penalties while Pietersen kept his team in the hunt with a penalty of his own.
Taylor continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over, until the Stormers cut the gap when Dewaldt Duvenage's clever cross-kick was gathered by Bryan Habana who finished. Pietersen missed the conversion which would have put them ahead.
Disaster struck for the Stormers after losing Rynardt Elstadt – shifted to lock in the absence of Andries Bekker and Eben Etzebeth – to the bin for a similar offence to that of Crockett.
It was another dubious call by referee Chris Pollock, and the Stormers spent a crucial period of the game with only seven forwards on the park.
Through Taylor's unerring boot, the hosts scored nine points while Elstadt was on the sideline and at 31-21 the game was over.
Grant nailed a well-taken penalty well after the siren though to earn the visitors a losing bonus point they thoroughly deserved for their part in a magnificent game.
Pens: Taylor 8
Tries: De Jongh, Habana
Pens: Grant, Pietersen 2
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Ryan Crotty, 22 Tom Marshall.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gio Aplon/ JP du Plessis.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)