United Rugby Championship: Stormers edge past Bulls in physical clash to win title

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

The Stormers won the United Rugby Championship title in the competition’s inaugural season as they defeated the Bulls 18-13 in an all-South African final.

Jake White’s men opened brightly and went into a 7-0 lead thanks to Harold Vorster’s try but they failed to repeat their heroics from last weekend.

The Bulls could not maintain their forward dominance and the hosts edged back into the contest thanks to Manie Libbok’s penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Although the Pretoria-based outfit regained their seven-point buffer through Chris Smith’s effort off the tee, the Stormers levelled matters via Evan Roos’ converted try.

John Dobson’s charges had the momentum and went ahead for the first time in the match when Andre-Hugo Venter touched down.

Smith then reduced the arrears but Libbok’s drop-goal gave the Stormers enough of a gap to hold on and spark jubilation on the pitch and in the stands.

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The result marked an 11th win in a row for the Stormers, who never lifted the title during their time in Super Rugby – beaten by the Bulls in their only final in 2010.

The Bulls took little over two minutes to strike the first blow at the DHL Stadium.

Johan Grobbelaar capitalised on a brief moment of confusion in the Stormers defence to embark on a penetrating break before offloading to Vorster to wriggle over.

Smith added the extras and the Bulls continued to look the sharper and more dangerous of the two sides throughout the opening quarter.

Libbok was the Stormers’ hero in their 17-15 semi-final victory over Ulster last weekend, kicking the winning conversion at the death. However, he had missed all three of his attempts at goal prior to that point and pulled his first effort of the night wide of the posts in the 33rd minute on Saturday.

To the relief of the home fans, Libbok did find the target with his next attempt, reducing the arrears to four on the stroke of half-time.

The concern for the Bulls at the break will have been their inability to fully capitalise on their control of the opening period and, after briefly restoring their seven-point advantage with a Smith penalty at the start of the second, the Stormers were soon level.

In-form Roos took the ball at pace, bounced through a tackle and stretched to touch down, with Libbok converting.

The Stormers were on top and were boosted further when a somewhat chaotic passage of play ended with Cornal Hendricks in the bin.

A second Stormers try quickly followed, with Venter finding his way over from a line-out maul just short of the hour.

Libbok could not add the conversion and Smith cut the gap to two with a penalty. However, that was the sum of the Bulls’ late response and Libbok’s drop-goal saw the Stormers home.

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The article United Rugby Championship: Stormers edge past Bulls in physical clash to win title appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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