United Rugby Championship: Stormers ease past Bulls in replay of last season’s final
The Stormers once again proved too strong for the Bulls after they claimed a 33-21 triumph on Saturday in a repeat of last season’s United Rugby Championship (URC) final.
John Dobson’s men were excellent in the opening 35 minutes and effectively won the game in that period, going 17-0 in front via Hacjivah Dayimani and Leolin Zas tries, while Manie Libbok added seven points off the tee.
The Pretoria side did give themselves brief hope as Cyle Brink crossed the whitewash, but they were simply outplayed by the 2021/22 winners.
For the second time in as many URC knockout matches, the Bulls succumbed to the Stormers as three more Libbok penalties and Angelo Davids’ effort sealed their fate, despite Embrose Papier’s and Bismarck du Plessis’ consolation scores.
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Thanks to Ulster’s defeat to Connacht, both sides had the opportunity to secure a home game in the last-four, but it was the Stormers who started with the greater intensity and quality.
They dominated the early stages with Dayimani continuing his fine form from the regular season with a classy inside ball which almost set up the first score.
Although the visitors covered well, the pressure was unrelenting and the athletic back-row eventually got his reward when he latched onto Dan du Plessis’ long pass.
Libbok created the opportunity initially, ghosting his way through a gap, before Du Plessis provided the assist for Dayimani to go over.
It was a brilliant impact from the fly-half, who starred throughout the contest. He converted that score before adding a three-pointer as the Stormers opened up a 10-0 lead on their South African rivals.
The 25-year-old simply ran the show and his side’s second try – after Brink had been sin-binned for shoving Dayimani off the ball – was thanks to the playmaker’s creativity. After Marvin Orie had stolen a Bulls lineout, the ball was shifted left to the pivot and his inch-perfect chip over the top was collected by Ruhan Nel.
With the Capetonians in behind the opposition defensive line, the men from Pretoria could not realign quick enough and Zas was on hand in stroll over unopposed.
The Bulls had struggled to get themselves into the game but, with their first attack, they gave themselves hope going into the interval as Brink touched down following a close range surge.
At 17-7 in arrears, the visitors still had hope but that was extinguished in the early part of the second period.
Firstly, Libbok kicked a penalty before Davids sprinted down the right for his side’s third try and a 20-point advantage going into the final half-hour.
Not much was going right for the visitors, who had a Ruan Nortje effort ruled out after he was deemed to have knocked on as he attempted to place the ball down.
Unperturbed, the Bulls finally managed to get over for the second time via Papier, but it was not enough as Libbok rubberstamped their semi-final place with a third and fourth three-pointer.
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