Rugby: Wooden Reds see off Stormers threat

Mike Harris breaks away for the Reds. Photo / Getty Images
Mike Harris breaks away for the Reds. Photo / Getty Images

This match probably confirmed that the Stormers won't be Super Rugby champions this year and won't make the play-offs, based on this form.

Funny thing is, you could say much the same about the Reds.

Fresh off an unsuccessful tour to South Africa (where they lost to the Sharks and the Lions), a home match against opponents going through a similar, if longer, overseas tour of losses could have been expected to bring some verve and dash from the Reds.

But even creative types like Quade Cooper, their eccentrically brilliant first five (17 points last night), and the smooth efficiency of halfback Will Genia couldn't rid the Reds of a feeling of woodenness; they just couldn't get their attack going much of the time. They either dashed themselves on the rocks of the Stormers defence or handling errors intervened.

The Stormers have had an even worse time on tour, losing to the Crusaders, Chiefs and Brumbies - an unpalatable itinerary. They have been a little unlucky at times and often didn't chance their arm until too late (when they looked a much better side).

All of that made for a largely dull encounter last night.

Last night, the Stormers' creative ability disappeared when livewire fullback Gio Aplon went off with a serious arm injury. That coincided with the Reds discovering the quality that seems to be their best hope of making it to the play-offs: a grunty forward pack which did better at the physical stuff - the collisions, the cleaning out, the driving. That was what propelled big Wallaby lock Rob Simmons across for the Reds, with the Stormers appearing tired and at the end of a long tour as they were shunted backwards by the Reds forwards.

But if the Reds are to make the play-offs and threaten other teams there, they will have to sharpen their attack.

Simmons looked a bit of a plank when he first came onto the international scene but reports from their end-of-year tour suggested he had come of age - and he is producing some powerful displays for the Reds now. The pack looks better balanced when young openside flanker Liam Gill isn't injured but they have another hardworking lock in skipper James Horwill and a busy front row in props Greg Holmes and James Slipper plus hooker James Hanson.

The Stormers had scored first - a simple try to winger Damian de Allende after a quick-hands passing movement - but then the Reds pack began to get to work. The Stormers seemed to have the more impressive loose forward trio in the hard-running Nizaaam Carr, Duane Vermeulen and Siya Kolisi but the Reds drew them into the grapple for possession and they were unable to respond.

That was really all there was to this match - Cooper kept happily kicking the penalties his forwards won.

It was efficient and clinical rugby though a drive from a lineout brought a late try to Stormers replacement Sikhumbuzo Notshe and the game was set for an exciting finish at 22-17.

Reds 22 (R. Simmons try; Q. Cooper drop goal, con, 4 pen), Stormers 17 (D. de Allende, S. Notshe tries; P. Grant con, pen; D. Catrakilis con). Halftime: 13-10

- Herald on Sunday

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