By Herman R Gibbs
The Stormers ran out close-shave 16-14 victors after the Cheetahs staged a spirited second-half performance in the Super Rugby SA derby at Newlands on Saturday night, after leading 16-0 at the break.
The game was poised on a cliff-hanger as the Cheetahs clawed their way back in the last quarter of the match after they outscored the Stormers by two tries to nil in the second half.
But as it turned out the Stormers' 16-0 halftime cushion was ultimately enough to see the home side to victory after 80 minutes.
The Cheetahs showed early intent to run the ball from inside their own half but they came up against a solid defence in the opening five minutes. At that stage they seemed determined to continue in that fashion and the Stormers looked comfortable absorbing the pressure.
When the Stormers managed to change the flow of the match the Cheetahs battled to contain several sorties into their 22-metre area and they often offended at the breakdowns.
In the space of six minutes, the Cheetahs were penalised three times and Stormers flyhalf Peter Grant was on target with all three attempts to give his side a 9-0 lead after only 15 minutes.
The Stormers were fired up by the 9-point advance and they lifted ther play with several attacking movements which saw fine inter-play as the forwards combined well the backs. This resulted in pressure on the Cheetahs defence and they finally yielded in the 23rd minute when lock Eben Etzebeth crashed over near the Railway Stand corner flag. Grant goaled splendidly from the touchline (16-0).
Just before the try was scored the Stormers lost loose foward Nizaam Carr, who was forced to leave the field with a knee injury. He was replaced by Canadian recruit Jebb Sinclair who joined Stormers from London Irish five days ago.
The Cheetahs changed tactics and instead of trying run their way past the Stormers they unleashed several up and unders but this also did not unsettle the opposition.
They did, however, show some enterprise ahead of the break but their efforts came to nought mainly as a result of their own doing as dropped and forward passes crept into their play, and by the time halftime dawned they were unable to reduce the deficit.
The Stormers started the second half strongly and a they were nearly in at the Grandstand corner flag but Grant was bundled out by the Cheetahs' cover defence. The Stormers looked to add more pressure but the Cheetahs staged a break-out from their 22-metre area to lay the platform for their opening try. The Stormers' defence out wide failed to contain the attack and Hennie Daniller rounded off splendidly in the corner. Substitite Riaan Smit converted (16-7).
In the 55th minute a free-for-all lasting some four minutes saw the play held up and Stormers flank Rynhardt Elstadt was yellow carded.
The Stormers continued to hold the upper hand in the match and looked set for another advance as they came within a whisker of scoring a few times bu they were rocked by a Willie le Roux intercept pass virtually on his own try line. He sprinted the length of the field to score in the corner. Smit again raised the flags from the touchline (16-14).
Towards the end the Stormers managed to regain the initiative but they were unable to add to their 16 first-half points.
Scorers: Stormers: Try: Eben Etzebeth. Conversion: Peter Grant . Penalties: Peter Grant (3).
Cheetahs: Tries: Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux. Conversions: Riaan Smit (2).