If the Stormers' Super 14 campaign wasn't over before, it certainly is now. The Cape Town franchise fell limply to a 34-11 defeat to the Hurricanes on Saturday, a defeat that all but mathematically rules them out of semi-final contention.
The failings on attack continued to haunt the South Africans. Bar one freak break out try there was barely anything in the way of danger from the visitors. The backs shuffled what little ball they had across harmlessly while the all-too-frequent appearance of Luke Watson in the backs did plenty to ruin any pace they might have been putting onto the ball.
Nobody seemed willing to take accountability and straighten the running line or even to run a decoy line - only Peter Grant seemed open-minded enough to try a couple of dummies and changes of pace.
At the breakdown, the Hurricanes were dominant as well, the better body position and technique helping them retain quick and clean ball time after time, the superior numbers helping them as well. The men in yellow generally just got around the park better and hit the rucks better.
But the Hurricanes had demons of their own to conquer too. The line-out was an absolute car crash at times and while the forwards had the upper hand, they only used that dominance sporadically to its full extent. The game was there for the taking yet never really taken until Ma'a Nonu's brilliant try early in the second half.
After an opening couple of minutes in which the Hurricanes lost two line-outs and Conrad Jantjes kicked an asinine ball out on the full, Grant set the pulses racing with a scorching break from his own 22. Schalk Burger and Jantjes did well to support, but with a four on two overlap out to the left, Watson took the ball and took contact before offloading to another forward inside and right, a crazy decision, symptomatic of the Stormers' aimless attacking.
The Stormers did score first though, with Dylan des Fountain - on for Jean de Villiers, whose knee lasted precisely three minutes - taking a loose ball, kicking ahead and twice benefitting from the benefit of the bounce before diving over. Grant missed with what should have been an easy conversion.
A decent start for the visitors, but that was as good as it got. Willie Ripia landed a penalty after the Hurricanes had laboured against the Stormers defence for several phases within reaching distance of the line, then scored a terrific try from deep under the posts, when David Smith broke the line off an inside ball, found Alby Mathewson on the offload, who in turn found Jeremy Thrush for the score.
It got worse for the Stormers. Grant missed a shocker from the tee, then Sireli Naqelevuki, who has done a passable imitation of a man unhappy in his environment and pining for home all season, was training ground casual about fielding a kick through from David Smith and conceded a scrum for his lack of efforts.
From the scrum the ball went left tom David Smith who was hauled down short, then back it went right to Tamati Ellison for the second try, excellently converted by Ripia to make it 17-5.
Briefly there was a flicker of resistance from the visitors, with the Stormers forwards marching 14 phases of pick and go and offload from one 22 to the other and forcing a penalty for Grant to narrow the deficit to 17-8 at the break.
Ripia and Grant exchanged further kicks at the start of the second half, then came the killer blow. Grant put in a clever kick over the Hurricanes backs, which on other days would have sprung up kindly for the chasers. This time it sprung almost with glee into the hands of Cory Jane, who stepped his way through the fragmented Stormers and offloaded to Nonu for the score. Ripia made it 27-11 after 53 minutes.
He made it 34-11 after 63 minutes once Nonu had barged his way over for the bonus-point try. The Hurricanes were cruising by now having racked up all 34 points without ever truly hitting top gear. By contrast, the introduction of Willem de Waal did nothing to ignite the Stormers backs.
Wylie Human made a break with eight minutes to go, then looped a scoring pass over, but Naqelevuki spilled it. Storm? More of a depression, really.
Man of the match: A close call between Jeremy Thrush and Scott Waldrom, but being as the latter received a juicy black eye, a few stitches and what we suspect was a missing tooth for his troubles, we can at least console him with this award!
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Thrush, T. Ellison, Nonu 2
Cons: Ripia 4
Pens: Ripia 2
For the Stormers:
Try: Des Fountain
Pens: Grant 2
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Tamati Ellison, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Rodney So'oialo (c), 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jacob Ellison.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Tim Fairbrother, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Karl Lowe, 20 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 21 Jason Kawau, 22 Zac Guildford.
Stormers: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Wylie Human, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Jean De Villiers (c), 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenhage, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Adriaan Fondse, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Wicus Blaauw, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Brok Harris, 18 AJ Venter, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Willem De Waal, 22 Dylan Des Fountain.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Touch judges: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Joey Salmans (South Africa)
Television match official: Garrat Williamson (New Zealand)
Assessor: Glen Wahlstrom (New Zealand)