Irish giants Munster spoiled the party in front of a record 56354 fans as they clinched a thrilling 19-14 win over the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship Grand Final at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.
It was a well-deserved win for the visitors who absolutely dominated the first half, before the Stormers fought back well to lead in the second, only for a late try to break the home fans hearts.
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The Stormers points in the match came from tries to flyhalf Manie Libbok and flank Deon Fourie, both converted by Libbok.
While Munster’s points came from tries to hooker Diarmuid Barron, right wing Calvin Nash and flank John Hodnett, with two conversions from the boot of flyhalf Jack Crawley.
Here are the key moments in the final that decided the contest.
Munster’s relentless attack
The visitors came to play rugby and dominated a stunning first half, although they only reached the break with a slender 12-7 lead.
The stats at the end of the half showed the gulf between the two sides. Munster had 64% possession and 58% territory. They had made 48 carries to 16 from the Stormers, 138 passes to 42, seven clean breaks to one and beaten 28 defenders to just three from the hosts.
The Stormers had to make 120 tackles and missed 28 in the half, while Munster made 41 and missed three.
A much better showing from the hosts in the second half improved those numbers a bit, but it wasn’t enough in the end.
From hero to (almost) villain
It would be harsh to call Stormers flyhalf Manie Libbok the villain of the piece, but it was his huge mistake that ended up costing them the game.
Taking a tight two point lead into the final minutes, Libbok got into a kicking battle, and after fielding the ball in his own 22m under no pressure, stepped past a Munster player, only to find their defensive line right on top of him leading to a hurried clearance attempt that was charged down.
From there Munster went through the phases and finished with Hodnett going over in the corner for what proved to be the winning try.
It was a crying shame for Libbok because he had started the game as the hero, scoring a wonderful intercept try early on to put the Stormers ahead.
Yellow cards swing the match
There were three yellow cards in the match that helped swing the tide one way and back the other.
First a yellow card to Evan Roos in the 18th minute for trying to steal the ball from an offside position in his own 22m with Munster on attack saw him sent to the bin. During his 10 minutes off Munster had a try disallowed and then scored their second that gave them the lead for the first time.
A yellow to Munster fullback Mike Haley in the 47th minute for a blatant trip on Stormers wing Angelo Davids allowed the hosts to immediately kick to the corner and maul over to score, giving them the lead which they held until the last few minutes.
Another Munster yellow, to Crawley for playing the ball on the ground with just minutes left, gave the Stormers a last chance to steal a win, but despite getting deep into the visitors 22m they held on desperately.
Missed chances almost cost Munster
The better team did win on the night, but Munster were almost made to rue their missed chances, especially after their monster first half.
The Stormers did defend heroically, but Munster were more at fault for not finishing things off.
They also had two tries disallowed, the first for a double movement and the second for a forward pass in the build-up, which would’ve given them a much bigger lead at halftime and could have made it a an easier second half for them.