Cruelly, it was Springbok World Cup champ Handre Pollard who proved the difference in the game.
Stormers coach John Dobson felt the positives far outweighed the negatives after a valiant performance from his understrength side saw them heartbreakingly beaten 35-26 by Leicester Tigers in their Champions Cup clash in England on Sunday.
With an important run of home matches in the Champions Cup and United Rugby Championship (URC) coming up for the Stormers, and with Dobson having admitted last week that sending a full strength team wouldn’t guarantee a win, they sent a side without their Boks to Leicester.
Despite the team being filled with youngsters, back up players and even a debutant in flyhalf Jurie Matthee, the Stormers put in a fantastic performance to almost shock the hosts.
The visitors stunningly led 17-10 at half-time, before the scores were level at 23-all after 61 minutes, and then with time up on the clock Leicester led 30-26, with a try after the hooter to right wing Josh Bassett making sure the Stormers would leave with nothing to show for their efforts.
World Cup champ
Cruelly, it was Springbok World Cup champ Handre Pollard who proved the difference in the game as he scored a try and slotted three conversions and three penalties to lead his side to victory and be named man-of-the-match.
Despite not even picking up a losing bonus point, Dobson decided to focus on the positives that his team took out of the match.
“The positives far outweigh the negatives. I was very disappointed with how the game finished. I thought we had done enough to burgle (the result) or certainly get that (losing bonus) point,” said Dobson.
“But there were some (great) performances (from the guys). The performances of guys like Connor Evans, Jurie Matthee and Keke Morabe, the next generation of Stormers was pretty cool (to see).
“There were so many (other) positives. This was a far higher level (of play) than some of the URC games we lost on tour. Especially in understanding the European conditions and kicking game was a major positive.
“I hoped that we were going to show some fight and we got that. But sitting there (in the changing room) at half-time we dared to dream and then it was snatched away. It (the result) still feels like a kick in the guts to be honest.”
One aspect that the Stormers will have to improve on is their decision making, after receiving a penalty deep in the Leicester 22m with just minutes left on the clock.
They could have taken a shot at goal to reduce the deficit to a point with still three minutes to play, or kicked to the corner to setup a lineout, but instead chose to scrum, with Leicester then winning the penalty and clearing.
Dobson, however, didn’t believe it was a bad call, admitting that it may have been wrong in hindsight, but that they had plenty of reason to choose to scrum instead of setting up the lineout.
“Obviously in hindsight it was an error. But at that stage I am not sure we had the personnel up front for us to get a maul try,” explained Dobson.
“We were down four lineouts (over the game at that time) and we thought the lineout hadn’t been great for us. So we thought the safer call was the scrum as we had quite a good backrow move, a variation of which Keke scored in the first half.
“Not one atom of me agrees with the (penalty) call against us. At worst it should have been a reset (scrum), but it wasn’t and it ended up (the decision to scrum) not working.”