It was a comprehensive defeat for the South African Conference champions who all season relied heavily on the boot of their prolific scoring flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis but after the Brumbies’ four first-half tries without reply, the beginning of the end was in sight for the Stormers.
The Capetonians went into the match looking for their first play-off victory since Super Rugby was expanded to 15 teams in 2011, and trying to reach the Super Rugby semi-finals for the third time in five years.
It was a bitterly disappointing result for the home crowd which numbered just under 29 000 fans – surprisingly small for a play-off encounter, and the coach Allister Coetzee’s final match in charge of the Stormers.
The Brumbies lost two early line-outs but were winning the battle on the gain line. They varied their play from early possession but mostly tried gaining ground with keep-ball-in-hand runs at Stormers defence.
The Stormers’ defence seemed impenetrable for about a nine-minute pressure spell until the Brumbies found inviting openings down the channels in front of the Railway Stand – with devastating effect.
The poorly exposed defence out wide was heavily punished by the Brumbies who ran in three tries in the space of 12 minutes, all scored by leftwing Joe Temane. One of the three was converted by flyhalf Christian Lealiifano, who ran out at Newlands for his 100th Super Rugby cap.
In between the first and second tries, the Stormers enjoyed a pressure spell which was threatening but failed to make its mark on the Brumbies defence. For about four minutes they were overcome by white-line fever as they tried to force their way over from about five metres out. Eventually, the Brumbies secured a turn-over under their posts to end any hopes the Stormers had of making a breakthrough.
Stormers flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis goaled penalties in the 14th and 37th minutes to keep his side’s hopes alive and at the same time reduce the deficit (17-6).
In the closing 10 minutes of the first half, the Stormers launched several attacks from around their own 10-metre line but they were always squeezed towards the touchline in front of the Main Grandstand and they resorted to kick-aheads, all of it rather poorly executed, and all resulting in 22-metre drop-outs for the opposition.
With a minute’s play left before the halftime break, the Brumbies stormed upfield with a penetrative sortie that continued through several phases before prop Scott Sio barged over next to the posts for the side’s fourth try in the match. With Lealiifano’s conversion attempt on target, the Aussie visitors returned to the change rooms with a commanding 24-6 lead under their belts.
The Stormers returned after the break and undeterred by the huge deficit they took the game to the Aussies although they did not seem to be in the ascendency. Their initiative was rewarded with an intercept try by fullback Cheslin Kolbe who ran all of 70 metres to score under the posts. Catrakilis goaled and added three more points with a penalty four minutes later (24-16).
The home side’s comeback effort set back somewhat when the 8-point deficit became 11 points six minutes when Lealiifano goaled a penalty to prise open an 11-point gap (27-16).
As the match approached the hour mark, the Stormers enjoyed plenty of possession but they were unable to make their mark on attacks. At this stage of the match, they were held up twice, just short of the tryline, and in the end they had to rely a Catrakilis penalty to gain a measure of reward in the 61st minute (27-19).
However, moments later the Stormers leaked a fifth try that finally sounded the death knell for 2015 Stormers, even though there was some 15 minutes playing still remaining. Eighthman Ita Vaea dotted down close to the corner and Lealiifano goaled his third conversion in the match 34-19.
By now, the home crowd knew it was all over, bar the shouting, even though the Brumbies were reduced to 14 players after rightwing Henry Speight was red-carded with 6 minutes left on the clock.
On the stroke of time, fullback Jesse Mogg ran in the Brumbies’ sixth and final try. The five–pointer went unconverted.
Scorers: Stormers: Tries: Cheslin Kolbe. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis (4)
Brumbies: Tries: Joe Tomane (3), Scott Sio, Ita Vaea, Jesse Mogg. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (3). Penalty: Lealiifano - ANA
Original source: Ruthless Brumbies hammer Stormers