The St.George Queensland Reds produced a gutsy last-ditch effort after the final siren but were unable to crack the Stormers defence in a narrow 20-15 Super Rugby defeat in Cape Town on Sunday.
Needing a try in the final play of the match, the Reds worked their way to within five-metres of the Stormers tryline more than four minutes after the siren had sounded only for the home side to secure a crucial turnover and the win.
It was a disappointing result and came after the Queenslanders had worked so hard to push their way ahead 15-14 with 10 minutes remaining before the Stormers recorded two late penalty goals through fullback Joe Pieterson.
Flyhalf Quade Cooper scored all 15 of the Reds points through penalty goals while Stormers captain Jean De Villiers produced the only try of the match early in the second half.
Reds captain James Horwill said it was now crucial that the Reds rediscover their winning form when they return to Suncorp Stadium next Saturday to play their final regular season fixture before the June Test window against the Melbourne Rebels.
“It’s disappointing. We did a lot of really good things but we then just turned the ball over,” Horwill said.
“That cost us and we know the Stormers defend well. We just needed to be better. It’s something we need to address as we move on.
“We go home now and play the Rebels at Suncorp Stadium. That’s a must win game for us. If we want to stay alive in this competition we have to start winning.
“We’ve only got two games left, plus a bye, so we need to get as many points as we can. We’ll now get home, do what we can and work on improving on what we’ve done over here.”
The Reds highlighted their attacking intent during the opening 20 minutes with their ball-in-hand approach pressuring the Stormers’ defence although two missed penalty goals resulted in no score.
The stalemate was somewhat fitting with the contest featuring the two best defensive teams in Super Rugby and it took until the final play of the opening half for the Stormers to produce first points through a Pieterson penalty goal.
The Reds had plenty of opportunities but none more so than from a quick lineout by Rod Davies and after some slick hands by Cooper and strong running by Chris Feauai-Sautia, it was winger Luke Morahan with space down the left touchline, only to be pulled down short by some desperate Stormers cover defence.
Despite being kept scoreless in the opening 40 minutes, the Reds were enjoying a strong territorial advantage and were benefiting from the direct play of Cooper and some strong ball running from their forwards.
The Stormers, however, enjoyed the perfect start to the second half when pinned deep in their own half produced a perfectly weighted crossfield kick to commence a movement that would see De Villiers score in the left corner.
Down 8-0 the visitors needed to respond and they did so just minutes later with Cooper successful with his third penalty attempt of the evening to narrow the margin to just five points.
Both teams exchanged penalty goals throughout the second half and Reds found themselves in front late in the contest before the Stormers successful slotted another two attempts of their own to secure the victory.
Stormers 20 (Jean De Villiers try; Joe Pieterson 5 pens) def St.George Queensland Reds 15 (Quade Cooper 5 pens)