Stormers smother Bulls
Late try by Habana after great work from Kolisi breaks pink hearts as visitors' defence holds firm in face of increasing desperation, writes Liam Del Carme at Loftus
THE Bulls huffed and puffed at the Stormers' door for much of last night's game and just when it dawned on them it was an exercise in futility, Bryan Habana brought his former home ground to its knees.
Habana scored a try in the 73rd minute to seal a 19-14 Stormers victory that seemed unlikely but never impossible for much of this game. Siya Kolisi burst through a gap and off-loaded to a speeding Habana who scored behind the posts - a touchdown that will have huge ramifications for these teams once Super Rugby returns after the June tests.
Despite not having the ball, the Stormers never let the Bulls out of their sight and displayed some fine fighting qualities - but they continued to be bereft on attack.
It didn't matter last night as their rope-a-dope tactics drew the Bulls' sting.
In many ways they had no business winning this contest, but take a bow Jean de Villiers, Peter Grant, Habana and the Stormers pack.
The Bulls' execution let them down in the opening 20 minutes when they had the bulk of the possession.
The Stormers simply fanned out their defenders, committed as few players to the ruck as possible and stayed in alignment.
Their well-honed ability to shut down the opposition partly explains the Bulls' running up blind alleys in the opening quarter.
The Bulls did come close when JJ Engelbrecht lost the ball forward, albeit only after Habana threw everything he had in the centre's path.
The Bulls, though, were undeterred, Dewald Potgieter, Juandre Kruger and Pierre Spies maintaining their forward momentum through their vaunted maul.
The human caterpillar edged over the gain line and the pressure had to tell.
With their pack in the ascendancy, the Bulls eventually scored a five pointer through Spies, but it took a supreme effort from Flip van der Merwe, who dragged him over the line.
Morne Steyn added his second penalty before the break but the Stormers were still in through three Grant penalties.
Grant's contribution to the Stormers' effort has been considerable. Before this match he had landed 26 of his 29 shots at goal this season and his first three attempts raised the flags.
The Bulls' slow poison, however, continued to permeate the Stormers and its debilitating effects were apparent.
The Bulls completely dominated the third quarter but imprecision, coupled with typically dogged Stormers defence, meant they continued to fritter away scoring opportunities.
Steyn added his third penalty in the 44th minute but despite a surfeit of possession, the Bulls couldn't make a further impression on the scoreboard.
When Steyn missed his second dropped-goal attempt in the 62nd minute the Bulls' exasperation was palpable.
That exasperation increased when Grant added his fourth penalty in the 66th minute to bring the Stormers to within two points.
The Stormers then delivered their killer blow when Kolisi burst through a gap and let Habana in.
This defeat will sting the Bulls, but the Stormers will feel they can take on the rest of the contenders.
Bulls 14 - Try: Pierre Spies. Penalties: Morne Steyn (3).
Stormers 19 - Try: Bryan Habana. Conversion: Peter Grant.. Penalties: Penalties: Grant (4).