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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Stormers hold out to secure vital away win over Lions in URC season opener

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Youngster Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu was influential in the Stormers’ first United Rugby Championship (URC) match against the Lions, scoring 16 points to help his side to a 35-33 win in Johannesburg yesterday.

It was a satisfying bonus-point win for the former URC champions at the start of the season after having some injury troubles earlier this week, and despite the home side clawing their way back in the second half, coming within two points of a win.

The Lions outscored the Cape side five tries to four, but it was the visitor’s goal-kicking that separated the two teams at the death.

Player of the Match Feinberg-Mngomezulu’s performance at Ellis Park included two tries and two long-range penalties and should bring comfort to Stormers coach John Dobson and his coaches that the inside centre position has sufficient cover in the absence of the injured Dan du Plessis and Cornel Smit.

Dobson had to bring in the 21-year-old Feinberg-Mngomezulu this week to start after he was supposed to run on from the bench, but he slotted in brilliantly next to the experienced Ruhan Nel with Clayton Blommetjies on his inside at flyhalf.

He manned the midfield well on defense, but it’s his ability on the attack that brought smiles to the Stormers’ coaches and their supporters’ faces.

Both of his tries were excellent. The first, probably the best, as he kicked through a loose ball, and showed some silky smooth soccer skills controlling it with his feet and legs before catching it to sprint in for the try with a Lions defender too late to stop.

The second, straight after the second half kicked off, he ran a good line to receive a mercurial Warrick Gelant pass while running through the defence to score what was the bonus-point try for his side.

He also played a big role with a chip over the top to lay the platform for scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies to score.

It was in the last 20 minutes of the first half and the 10 minutes after the break that the Stormers made the game their own.

They led 27-7 and shortly after resuming 32-7 and should never have allowed the Lions to come back to make the scoreline so narrow.

But that is the fight that the home side showed and had they converted their opportunities right at the start of the match, the outcome would most likely have been different.

They dominated the opening 10 minutes and starved the dangerous Stormers of ball possession.

At scrum time they won the battle comfortably for about 15 minutes and Dobson had to make an early substitute at prop taking off the struggling Kwenzo Blose and bringing on Springbok Lizo Gqoboka to stabilise the set piece.

When the Lions’ power (and penalties) at the scrum was taken away, they fell off their game. The backline was starved of possession and dangerous runners like fullback Quan Horn and wingers Rabz Maxwane and Richard Kriel were silenced.

Replacements Henco van Wyk at centre and scrumhalf Morne van den Berg changed the pace in the backline for the team from Ellis Park, but that points gap was eventually too big to close towards the end.

Both scored vital tries for the Lions to earn two losing bonus points from the clash, and they will surely have their coaches wondering how the game could’ve turned out if they started.

Point-scorers

Lions 33 — Tries: PJ Botha, Henco van Wyk, Ruan Venter, Morne van den Berg, Francke Horn. Conversions: Jordan Hendrikse (2), Sanele Nohamba (2).

Stormers 35 — Tries: Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (2), Joseph Dweba, Herschel Jantjies. Conversions: Clayton Blommetjies (3). Penalties: Feinberg-Mngomezulu (2), Blommetjies.

@Leighton_K

IOL Sport

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