Stormers Give Auckland The Blues. By Mark Ella

When All Blacks Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu moved from the Hurricanes to the Auckland this season everyone had high hopes that the Blues would be serious contenders for this years Super Rugby crown.

But surprisingly their only victory after four Rounds of the competition has been against the Bulls two weeks ago when they won convincingly at Loftus Versfeld 29-23 but otherwise the start to their season is seriously misfiring.

Last weekend at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town it was always going to be a struggle against the Stormers but there was hope that if they could string two tough wins together their season would some how all come together.

The Blues again let themselves down by making far too many mistakes and even though they had an even share of possession and territory in the first half, they trailed the Stormers 17-3 at half time.

New Zealand teams are noted for their patience but they lost the football at the point of contact far too often and the Stormers took advantage of every mistake they made.

After allowing Stormers fullback Joe Pietersen to kick two easy penalties the South Africans first try came after fourteen minutes when Springbok winger Bryan Habana followed up a kick before pouncing on a loose ball to stretch his arm across the try line.

Thirteen minutes later the Blues finally a put points on the scoreboard when fullback Lachie Munroe kicked a penalty but they never really got close to the Stormers who controlled most of the match.

The Stormers had the run of play and their five Springbok three-quarters Juan de Jongh, Gio Aplon, Jean De Villiers, Peter Grant and Habana kept the pressure on the Blues whose handling errors made life easier for the Stormers.

The Blues also didn't do themselves any favors when they conceded seven penalties in the first half due to the pressure by the Stormers allowing Pietersen to kick four penalties and keep them in front for the entire game.

The second half was important for the Stormers because they have a reputation of failing to play for eighty minutes so getting onto the scoreboard first in the second half was critical  to remain in control of the match.

Captain Jean De Villiers answered the call when he crossed the line after 51 minutes in a great individual effort after some great lead up by the Stormers forwards who were dominating the contest up front to extend their lead 24-3.

But to their credit the Blues didn't give up and whilst they were never going to claw back the big difference they managed to score two converted tries to centre Benson Stanley and prop Charlie Faumuima in the 57th and 64th minute to give the Stormers a few nerves when their lead was cut back to 24-17.

Thankfully the Stormers held their composure when Pietersen put the game beyond doubt when his kicked his fifth penalty in the 71th minutes from a scrum infringement against the Blues to seal their third victory from three attempts.

The Stormers have had a great start to their season and they will look to continue their unbeaten success when they play against the Lions this Saturday if they make the most of their opportunities and play as a team rather than a group of individuals.

The Blues on the other hand need to shake their blues away and improve on their 3-1 losing ratio to date and based on their performances this year they may struggle to get the better of the Hurricanes when they meet in Auckland on Friday evening.

With Weepu and Nonu playing below their expectations for the Blues, the match against their former team will indicate where their minds are at right now.

Hopefully for the Blues the match on Friday may trigger the best from the All Black stars who owe it to themselves and their team-mates to get this season underway and finally something to smile about rather than feeling the blues.

Mark Ella









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