|13 May 2023||3:00 pm||United Rugby Championship||2022/23|
Connacht fall short as Stormers book final spot
A commendably courageous Connacht performance fell short against a spellbinding, strong DHL Stormers who saw off the Westerners 43-25 in a ten try epic.
In both sides’ second successive knockout game, Connacht, not renowned for their fast starts, were like lightning from the kick off.
The visitors pack, including URC elite men, Finlay Bealham and Niall Murray, stood strong early, winning the match’s first penalty, converted calmly into the first points by Jack Carty.
With Stormers stumbly from set pieces and handling, Connacht pressure earned them a dream position, attacking scrum in the twenty-two.
A steady base and charge from Cian Prendergast worked space before Carty crisply whisked the ball wide for Mack Hansen to hare heroically into the left corner. Carty’s conversion missed but 0-8 fourteen minutes in was a wonderful start.
In Champion fashion, Stormers stormed back, almost immediately cancelling out Hansen’s try, winger Angelo Davids this time the beneficiary of fine fly-half play, gathering Marnie Libbok’s pinpoint crossfield kick and dotting down, Libbok adding the extras to make it a, thrilling, one-point gap.
Connacht, after commencing on the front foot, were now being manipulated by the pace of Stormers’ passing, the South African side edged ahead with a Libbok penalty that Cape Town cheered to the rafters.
Libbok was looking lively and he instigated a crucial second score for the hosts.
Starting in his own twenty-two, his kick-chase found Dan du Pleiss unattended wide left, from there they had the numbers, Herschel Jantjies found his half-back partner, Libbok lolling in under the posts for a seven-pointer of his creation.
As the hosts pressed, the opening quarter must have felt like a miraculous mirage of water in a desert for Andy Friend’s side as Carty’s missed kick to touch was ruthlessly punished by another long-range, high-speed Stormers advance.
This time Davids was the provider, bursting through Carty’s weak tackle and offloading to Libbok, he cantered over and converted to make it 24-8, already on a nineteen-point haul!
Connacht however were in no mood to collapse and mirroring their start, ended the half on a high.
Tom Farrell’s lung-busting burst from centre made the yards and from quick recycling, Denis Buckley’s cute pop-up pass was pounced upon and propelled into a try by flanker Conor Oliver.
In bizarre circumstances, the wind skewed Carty’s attempt of a conversion to leave it 24-13 and still an uphill task for Friend’s side entering the second half.
And so the visitors rolled up their sleeves, defended resolutely during the third quarter, and Shamus Hurley-Langton stormed over, Carty adding the two to set home nerves jangling.
With fifteen minutes remaining, the Stormers’ squad strength told as replacement scrum half Paul du Wett scored their fourth try.
Yet, entering a simply ridiculous final five minutes of rugby, an away substitute, Bryan Ralston hauled Connacht back within a converted try, echoing Hansen’s precise touchline finish.
Like a boxer on the ropes though, Friend’s men were being pummelled soon enough again and another substitute, Marcel Theunissen finally secured the win, putting eleven points once more between the teams entering the final minute.
Stormers finished with finesse, an audacious around-the-man back pass freeing Ruhan Nel to cap a scintillating game of rugby.
Libbock’s fourth accurate conversion (his tally totalling twenty-three points) put an inaccurate slant to the final score of 43-25.
So, Friend says farewell with a heroic but losing display in Cape Town, for a province, that gutsy until the last, can satisfy themselves with reaching this stage for just the second time in their history.
Paul de Wet
|Paul de Wet||65'|
38 - 15
United Rugby Championship
Cape Town Stadium
DHL Stormers v Connacht
19 - 17
United Rugby Championship
Connacht v DHL Stormers
|Cape Town Stadium|
|Cape Town Stadium, South Forecourt, Cape Town Ward 115, Cape Town, City of Cape Town, Western Cape, 8005, South Africa|